Gaining steam

Clemson's no-huddle offense seems to be gaining momentum by the week, and that's a good thing for the Tigers as they head into the season's homestretch.

Players appear much more comfortable with the offense and are now well aware of what first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris demands. The Tigers have really hit their up-tempo stride of late, averaging nearly 81 plays per game over their past three games, which was the preseason target for Morris.

"We've snapped the ball more than anybody in the country, or we're right there at it, and that's something that's helping us in the second half," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

No question there.

Coupled with Clemson's myriad offensive weapons, the up-tempo offense has been a recipe for success -- particularly late in games.

Clemson is wearing opposing defenses down in the second half, and has outscored its eight opponents 175-77 this season in the final 30 minutes. That trend could pay handsome dividends at the Tigers enter their final four games with plenty of possibilities -- at 8-0, Clemson is one of just eight undefeated teams left in the nation and has moved to No. 6 in both major polls and to No. 5 in the latest BCS standings.

"The higher you climb, the air gets thinner," Clemson offensive tackle Landon Walker said. "You've just got to keep doing the things that got you there."

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Martavis Bryant -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says Bryant is "as talented as anybody we have," and the numbers certainly back that up. Bryant, a rangy 6-foot-4 freshman, has only six catches in eight games, but he's made the most of them, averaging a gaudy 33.1 yards per catch.

He had a 29-yard touchdown catch against North Carolina on Oct. 22 and appears more comfortable than ever in Clemson's fast-paced offense. Expect him to contribute more as the Tigers head into the homestretch of their schedule.

LOOKING GOOD: Clemson's ball control continues to be a strong suit. After turning the ball over more than its opponent for the first time this season on Oct. 15 at Maryland, the Tigers returned to their ball-hawking ways against North Carolina, forcing six turnovers while losing the ball just once.

The only miscue against the Tar Heels was a fumble by freshman RB Mike Bellamy late in the game. Clemson now has a plus-9 turnover margin, which ranks among the best in the country.

Sophomore QB Tajh Boyd has 24 touchdown passes -- the second-highest season total in school history (Roy Philpott)
STILL NEEDS WORK: Clemson still needs to continue to try and build up its depth. After taking a 59-24 third-quarter lead over North Carolina, coach Dabo Swinney played plenty of back-ups in the fourth quarter and the results weren't impressive. The defense surrendered two late touchdowns -- albeit one following a fumble deep in its own territory -- and the offense managed just one first down and 31 total yards in the final 15 minutes.

"Our second- and third-teamers didn't play well," Swinney said. "When you get an opportunity to play, we don't lower our standard. They're going to have to learn and get better."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We don't want to just live up to them. We want to be better than them." -- Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins on comparisons to the Tigers' unbeaten 1981 team, which won the program's only national championship.

PLAYER NOTES: Sophomore QB Tajh Boyd has 24 touchdown passes -- the second-highest season total in school history. He trails only Cullen Harper, who threw 27 touchdown passes in 2007.

* Senior DE Kourtnei Brown returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, then scooped up a fumble and rambled 26 yards for another score in the third quarter of Clemson's 59-38 win over North Carolina on Saturday. He became the first Clemson defensive lineman to score twice in a game since 1954.

* Junior TE Dwayne Allen had six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown against the Tar Heels. The North Carolina native has 13 receptions for 106 yards in two career games against North Carolina.

* Freshman WR Sammy Watkins caught his ninth touchdown pass of the season against North Carolina, tying the ACC record for touchdown receptions by a freshman set by Heath Miller of Virginia in 2002 and matched by Florida State's Greg Carr in 2005. Top Stories