CLEMSON – A missed assignment here, a forced throw there, a bad play call here and a heads-up defensive play there.
It was an assortment of reasons why Clemson settled for field goals on its first three looks at the goal line, but head coach Dabo Swinney was far more optimistic a day later than he was disappointed Saturday night after a 40-27 win at Maryland.
“Those are things we can definitely improve upon, because you look at what you did – we really moved the ball all night long with some long drives, only two 3 and outs, and you’ve got 551 yards of offense – I was very encouraged,” Swinney said on his Sunday teleconference. “I was more frustrated last night, because you’re on the road, you punch a couple of those field goals into touchdowns, and you really get a hold of that game quickly. But we didn’t do that.”
No big deal, Swinney said, on Tajh Boyd’s ankle injury from Oct. 19 vs. Florida State and tweaked knee suffered Saturday.
“He’s just a little sore, just like a bunch of other guys in here, but he’ll be ready to go,” Swinney said.
Running back Zac Brooks bruised his shoulder, but doesn’t figure to miss significant time.
“He’s pretty sore today. He’s probably one of those guys at the end of the season that’ll have this and that scoped and cleaned up,” Swinney said. “But he’ll probably be back in practice Tuesday and ready to go Saturday.”
Blanks, Kearse battle at safety
When safety Travis Blanks took a bad angle on Maryland’s 71-yard catch-and-run to take an early lead Saturday, his backup Jayron Kearse garnered the majority of playing time the rest of the way.
Blanks did return, but appeared to be in the doghouse as coaches continue to lend opportunities to Kearse, a skilled but risk-taking freshman.
“It wasn’t just Travis. He certainly was a big part of it, he’s peeking in the backfield, and (linebacker) Stephone (Anthony) was the other one,” Swinney said, describing the breakdown on Levern Jacobs’ touchdown. “That’s a play that’s really handled underneath. But both those guys were staring at the quarterback instead of having their eyes on what they needed to have their eyes on.
“But we want to get Jayron in the game regardless, because he’s just not going to get any better staying on the sideline. He still has a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do, so we’ve got to get him some experience. Travis came back and did a good job for us, but that particular play was the most disappointing play of the game; 3rd and 6, they throw a simple slant, and the guy takes it 70 yards. Technically, we can greatly improve in that regard, but it certainly wasn’t all on Travis.”
Humphries still the man
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins muffed a punt in the opening game against Georgia, and Watkins has not since returned to that position.
Adam Humphries has been the regular guy back there, and he had his first fumble of the season, though he was able to retain possession.
“We didn’t really get any opportunity to return the ball last night, but he’s been very steady handling for us,” Swinney said. “There was a lot of wind last night. That was a very crazy kicking situation all night long.”
Humphries has 13 punt returns for 130 yards, a tidy 10.0 average, with a long gain of 45 yards.
“Adam’s doing a great job. Coming into this ball game, he’s the first guy we’ve had since (C.J.) Spiller and (Jacoby) Ford averaging double digits in returns,” Swinney said. “He’s done a really, really nice job for us as a return guy.”