The Clemson offense has been stoic through four games this season. The Tigers have struggled to get anything going as their offensive line has hampered the running game, while DJ Uiagalelei has not looked like the quarterback who flashed in two games last year.
And in Saturday night’s 27-21 loss at NC State, all of that came together in their loss. When they needed a score in the second overtime to tie the game, Uiagalelei could not find a receiver.
People are taking notice, too. On the broadcast of Saturday’s game, Robert Griffin II called out the Tigers offense for being archaic, a direct shot at Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“He didn’t have anybody open,” Griffin III said. “But once again straight-stem routes, nobody is getting mesh points or easy pick plays. Where is the creativity? Seems like they do not only have an identity but their offensive play-calling is a little archaic.”
Against three Power Five opponents, the Tigers have a combined five touchdowns. They mustered just 214 total yards Saturday. When Trevor Lawrence was running the offense, that number would have been called a decent first half.
Swinney is not running away from the criticism, either. He knows the comments are warranted and the Tigers have huge problems to figure out on the offensive side of the ball.
“We’ve been an offense that’s been really, really good for a long, long time,” Swinney said in his postgame press conference. “The criticism is warranted because that’s where we are right now, that’s what we displayed. With the way we’ve performed you’re going to get criticism and you’re going to get criticism and things like that.
“And you know what, hey, that comes with the territory because the expectation and the standard at Clemson and who we are, we are not meeting that. It’s just that simple. People are gonna say whatever they want and there’s really not anything we can say because we’re not getting it done right now.”
What the loss means for Clemson
Clemson knew its offense was going to look significantly different with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne off to the NFL. But this was never really expected. Uiagalelei has not looked like the same quarterback he was against Notre Dame and Boston College a year ago.
Because of the offensive struggles, the Tigers defense has been under a mountain of pressure. They did not allow a touchdown until Saturday, but they made costly mistakes down the stretch. A penalty gave NC State a second chance in the first overtime, and the Wolfpack soon scored.
And while Dabo Swinney and Clemson can still win the ACC, their time in the College Football Playoff conversation this season is done. With a strong defense and an incapable defense, the Tigers were eventually going to lose. And that formula is not going to work against a teams in the national championship picture.