CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Offense focused on the extras
CLEMSON — The new governor of Alabama may be Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow after his team-high nine receptions last week against Auburn and his four touchdowns, including the game-winning score in last year’s national championship, in two games against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
But few may recall that the big-game hunter Renfrow actually burst onto the scene two years ago at Louisville, where he grabbed his first career touchdown pass, a 32-yarder from former quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“That seems like so much has happened since then,” Renfrow said. “That seems like it was yesterday but it also seems like it was 10 years ago. I remember my parents weren’t going to come up to that game because it was eight hours away and I wasn’t even starting that game. I caught a little post and I remember it was a four-quarter game just like Auburn. We both traded blows but we came out on top.”
Now ahead of the No. 3 Clemson Tigers’ trip to where the world first heard the name Hunter Renfrow, the junior wide receiver believes the team’s history in big games since 2015 will pay dividends.
“We’ve been in so many big games. It seems like every week it’s a huge game. It’s GameDay or it’s primetime last week and next week,” Renfrow said. “We’ve just got to put in that little extra work in practice - -that’s what it comes down to.
“We know they’re going to be good, they’re going to be talented, but we’ve just got to be disciplined, be smart and take care of the football. I know we talked about it yesterday, but it really is the little extra that we put into it in practice … That’s what wins these type of games.”
Last year, the Tigers’ run to a national championship was nearly derailed by the Cardinals.
After jumping out to a 28-10 lead at halftime, the Cardinals — led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson — stormed back to take the lead, scoring on five consecutive possessions. The Tigers prevailed, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Renfrow was unable to participate in last year’s game after suffering a broken hand in the second game of the season, but what he saw was a Tiger offense that turned the ball over five times — aiding in the Jackson-led comeback.
That must be avoided this season.
“I think Lamar and them had 100 plays last year, so we gave them a lot of plays. So really, we’re not going to ball control, we’re going to do what we do,” Renfrow said. “But we have to take care of the ball if we’re going to win -- simple as that. We’re going to have to play well on special teams and take care of the ball on offense because we know what we have on our defense - -we’ve got some good players. So we’ve got to give ourselves a chance to win by taking care of the ball.”
But through two games this season, the Clemson offense has turned the ball over three times — once against Kent State and twice against Auburn — and has yet to force a turnover on defense, yielding a minus-3 margin through the first two games of the season.
Last season the Tigers became only the second team in FBS history to win a national championship with a negative turnover margin.
“We know he’s (Lamar Jackson) going to make plays. He’s a great player. We play against elite talent every week,” Renfrow said. “I think it was good for us last week to get down and struggle offensively with that fumble inside the 10. It was good for us to experience that. So moving forward, just not putting ourselves in that situation; if it does happen just respond like we did last week.”
While many are pinning the Tigers’ hopes solely on the defense’s ability to contain Jackson and hold the Cardinals’ offense in check, the Tiger offense is not ready to concede anything.
“We go against top talent every single day and we’re not overwhelmed by an opponent when we get out there on Saturdays. We know that if we struggle against (linebacker) Dorian (O’Daniel) or whoever is out there (on the practice field), we still have to get up and go make the next play.
“Hopefully, if it’s a shootout or a low-scoring game, we’re just trying to win the game. That’s what a team is for … to complement each other and the defense did a great job last week, so hopefully we can help them out this week.”