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Heisman, surely, would love the Tigers' record but would be surprised at how it has been achieved. Against North Carolina they scored 35 third-quarter points, tying a school record. Boyd threw five touchdowns in the game, tying another school record. Watkins, his long dreads flying, caught one of them and has already scored nine times this year. Allen snagged one scoring pass.
Last season Clemson averaged 66.6 snaps a game. This year, with the institution of a high-tempo, no-huddle offense, the team is averaging 78.3, and on Saturday the Tigers had 84. Morris, age 42, majored in math and minored in statistics at Texas A&M, and snaps per game is his OPS. His goal for every game, whether ahead or behind, is to reach 80. "When you're working fast like that, your defense is going to be on the field more, so they have to be in better shape, and the offense is so up-tempo, it has to be in better shape too," Morris said late on Saturday afternoon. The coach looked exhilarated, but exhausted. With Oklahoma and Wisconsin losing that night, Clemson jumped from seventh to fifth in the BCS standings.
Swinney, who hired Morris away from Tulsa, has an analytical side, like his offensive coordinator. He has a spiritual side, like the coach who hired him as an assistant at Clemson, Tommy Bowden. And he has a boyish side, like Ford had 30 years ago. The old guys from the 1981 team were saying last week that Ford was a players' coach and the young guys from the '11 team were saying the same thing about Dabo.
When the game was over, Swinney gathered the team around in a big circle in the locker room. Somebody put on the old KC and the Sunshine Band anthem, Boogie Shoes, and Swinney started dancing like a wild man, hips gyrating, arms slinking this way and that, eyes bulging, his light brown hair plastered against his forehead. His players were hooting and hollering and joining in. What a scene.
The music stopped, and Dabo praised this player and that one, both on offense and defense. He was briefly critical of the second-teamers who played most of the fourth quarter, when North Carolina outscored them 14--0. "You backups got to be ready to play," he said. "There should be no drop-off." And then he quickly said, "Enough of that."
He then spoke of the team's record and noted that the 1981 team was once 8--0, too. "You are on the verge of greatness, but you've got to kick the door down," he said.
Finally, Swinney asked his players and coaches to hold hands. "We thank the good Lord for the privilege of being on this team," he said. "Help us be a team and love each other." He prayed for the Tar Heels to travel home safely and for his players to make good Saturday night decisions. As he neared the end of his off-the-cuff invocation, he said, "I pray that people will know that we have Christ among us." Most every head was bent.
Before long, the locker room emptied. The last player to leave was Allen, the 6'4", 255-pound senior who is projected to be the one of the first tight ends taken in next year's NFL draft. As a freshman he butted heads with Swinney again and again. "I'd call him Dabo, just to get under his skin," Allen said. He fought with other players and told his coaches to f--- off. One day he refused to practice. Swinney, then in his first year at Clemson, was often furious at Allen but refused to give up on him. He knew Allen could help him win games and he could see—in the trauma of Allen's impoverished and hectic childhood in Fayetteville, N.C.—the trauma of his own.