AUBURN, Ala. — Luckily for second-ranked Clemson in Saturday’s 19-13 victory over Auburn, it was prepared for the wing-T.
That’s right, Brent Venables defense was prepared and it showed as the Tigers held Auburn to 87 rushing yards on 41 carries. But how did Venables know how to stop for the wing-T, especially since he has never seen it?
He Googled it of course.
“Somebody said they might be trying to do it so we literally were watching Apopka (High School, Fla.) and watching Rick Darlington (teach) a clinic up on YouTube the night before last,” Venables said afterwards. “I said, ‘We are going to play one defense if they do it, and sure enough, I was like, ‘Surely not!’’
Auburn (0-1) did it a lot in the second half. The single-wing as it was first know was developed by Glenn “Pop” Warner and was a precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formation. The ball is generally a direct snap to the tailback or fullback.
According to Wikipedia, the single-wing formation was designed to place double-team blocks at the point of attack. Gaining this extra blocker was achieved in several ways. First, the unbalanced line placed an extra guard or tackle on one side of the center. Second, a wingback stationed outside end could quickly move to a crucial blocking position. Third, the fullback and especially the quarterback could lead the ball carrier producing interference. Finally, linemen, usually guards, would pull at the snap and block at the specified hole. Line splits were always close except for ends who might move out from the tackle.
“I’m literally looking at it, and this is getting out of tale, but then I pulled up some defensive coordinators, Googled ‘How to stop the wing-T?’ I found a guy that defended it like I wanted to do it and then I just kind of took a few things from him and told our guys, ‘Look I don’t know if they are going to do it,’” Venables said.
However, Venables did not want make his players panic. He could have worked only on the wing-T in their walk through on Friday, but “we needed to work on other things and I didn’t want to chase ghosts,” he said.
But, they had a basic plan and for the most part the Tigers held their own on the defensive side of the ball.
Auburn was limited to 272 total yards and was 3-for-17 on third down. They completed just 15 of 30 passes for 175 yards, were intercepted twice and lost a fumble.
“Our defense hung in there,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
With the offense stalling for much of the second half, except for a 40-yard Greg Huegel field goal and a 16-yard Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, the defense kept the Tigers in front all night.
Wayne Gallman scored on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Tigers in front, and Greg Huegel hit a 30-yard field with seven seconds left before halftime to extend the lead to 10-3 at the break. But after that, the defense carried the day, limiting Auburn to one rushing yard in the first thirty minutes and just 38 overall.
In the second half, Clemson had two stops on fourth-and-short inside its own 10-yard line and then Jadar Johnson knocked down two passes at the end to secure the six-point victory.
Literally, if it was not for the defense, the Tigers would not have left Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday without a win.
“I was confident, and I thought we had a pretty good plan, and also I liked how our guys had been working, their focus, their attitude, their willingness to be coached and again how hard they worked,” Venables said. “That gives you confidence as a coach. I knew there was going to be plenty of things we did not do right, well or coach well, but I felt like, ‘Hey man! It is going to be their first game, too.”
Luckily for Clemson, Venables coached his team right on the wing-T and it paid off.
Thank goodness for Google, right?