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Tuesday Press Conference: Stop the Turnovers

In the past two games, Clemson has lost the turnover battle, handing the ball to Georgia Tech four times, and three times to Wake Forest.  You're not going to win too many ballgames when you continue to do that.  

The test for this week?  Stop turning the ball over, because NC State will make you pay.  The Wolfpack haven't done a ton right this year, but forcing turnovers has been their bread and butter.  Tom O'Brien's squad leads the conference in turnover margin and has forced a whopping 20 interceptions, 7 more than anyone else in the ACC.  If you're a Clemson fan that certainly gives you pause after watching Tajh throw a ton of balls in jeopardy last week which should have resulted in a lot of picks.  This week in practice, it's going to be up to Chad to work with Tajh on limiting these bad passes, because when you start turning the ball over on the road, against a team looking to get bowl eligible, you could be in a world of trouble.

We've had seven turnovers in two ballgames.  We've had 15 all year, but seven the last two games.  Heck yeah, that's a concern.  Putting the ball on the ground by our back, that's one thing.  That's ball security.  Tajh, his success and confidence, that's sometimes not a positive.  He has so much confidence that he believes he can make every throw.  You don't want to take that mentality away from him...We just want to dial him back in and have him be more disciplined to take what's there.  

Mike Glennon has had a solid year for the Wolfpack.  His TD-INT ratio is solid and his completion percentage is a tad over 61%.  Glennon doesn't have the running ability that other ACC quarterbacks have and that's probably a good thing.  If there has been an achilles heal of the Clemson defense this year, it's been its inability to stop a mobile quarterback.  That test will come again next week against South Carolina, but as for this week, Clemson is looking at a pocket passer.  

Their quarterback has a big arm and he does a good job with what they ask him to do.  He throws the ball in some tight spots.  He's a very good player...They're very capable if you look at what they've done.  They go to UVA and beat UVA.  They shut out North Carolina.  They battled hard with Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.  They're getting some guys back health-wise.  

It's hard to get a handle on NC State's rushing attack.  Last week I thought Clemson would fair well against a Wake Forest running game that was near last in the conference.  Instead, the Tigers gave up 145 yards on the ground.  This is going to have to get corrected, but I'm not sure it's going to happen overnight.  This defense is very average, and if it continues to struggle stopping the run and getting off the field, it's going to cost this team football games.  Clemson now ranks second to last in the conference in rush defense yet stands at second in the conference in pass defense.  I would chalk that up to the fact that teams know they can have success running the ball against us, so why not continue to pound the rock?  

They've played a couple of running backs.  No. 24 is very talented and is also a guy that catches the ball very well.  We'll have to do a great job of defending their backs and their receivers...Their offensive line has a ton of starts.  Their center is outstanding.  Their left tackle is an outstanding player as well.  

Clemson has dominated the Wolfpack as of late having won the last 7 games against NC State.  In the game last year, at home, Clemson had to mount another comeback against the Wolfpack, due in large part to Clemson once again losing the turnover battle.  It's really pretty simple.  This Clemson attack is potent.  They have more talent on this offensive side of the ball than anyone in the conference, they have the best OC in the league, but if you turn the ball over and put pressure on an already weak defense, you are going to have some tight games.  

When on, this is the best offense in the league.  That is backed up statistically.  Following the Wake Forest game, Clemson ranks 1st in the ACC in scoring offense, 1st in the ACC in total offense, and 1st in the conference in passing offense.  Who would have thought this would be the case after a season last year when the Tigers couldn't even score a TD against Boston College?  One reason, Clemson has been mentally tough late in ballgames. 

Just like our season last year, it [having veterans] benefited us some this year.  That mental toughness that came from that is a big reason why we're 9-1 right now.  Players, as they mature, they draw on their past experiences and you learn a lot of good and bad.  

A big question mark this week is Sammy Watkins.  After suffering an AC joint sprain against Wake Forest, the freshman stud didn't return to the game.  It was nice to see that Clemson could mount comebacks without Watkins like they did against Wake, but it makes you a little nervous anytime you head on the road and arguably your best player is banged up.  What would you do this week?  Do you rest Sammy?  Play him?  The ACC division is wrapped up, do you risk further injury if he's not ready to go or do you let him sit out and get healthy so he's ready for the South Carolina game?

For me, if he's close to 100% (which I'm not sure will be the case) I play him.  The guy is too talented to leave on the sidelines if he can indeed play and contribute to this offense.  When you have #2 on the field, you create all kinds of matchup nightmares for opposing defenses and you have a guy at your disposal that can literally score from anywhere on the field (even out of the wildcat).   He already has 1000+ receiving yards on the year, as a freshman.  That's pretty mind boggling.  Add that to the 661 yards in the return game and 165 rushing yards and you have a young man that has put up video game numbers this season.  Do you really want to keep that on the sideline if can be ready to play (a big if I suppose)? 

As for NC State, this is a team that is looking to get bowl eligible, and a coach that is on the hotseat in Raleigh.  Despite Clemson's recent success there, Carter-Finley isn't the easiest place to win a ballgame.   Saturday we'll find out is Clemson is ready.