Brent Venables kind of knew it was going to be a tough afternoon when Troy’s Brandon Silvers’ pass down the far sideline hung up in the air for what seem like an eternity before Andre Flakes out jumped Clemson’s Jadar Johnson for an 18-yard gain.
That’s normally a pass Johnson comes down with, but the ball just got over his outstretched fingers and Flakes brought the ball down at the Trojans’ 49.
“That is kind of how the day went right there, that play. It just like, ‘Are you kidding me,’” Venables said.
But No. 2 Clemson was ultimately able to overcome all the craziness on Saturday as it hung on for a 30-24 victory over the Trojans. It was Clemson’s 16th straight regular season victory and 17th straight in Death Valley.
Venables’ defense was a big reason why the Tigers overcome the craziness on special teams and on offense. Other than a 66-yard touchdown run by Jabir Frye, Clemson’s defense held Troy in check for much of the first three quarters.
They helped the Tigers (2-0) hold a three-point lead through three quarters before quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to aid in the victory. Those touchdowns turned out to be big because after giving up just 11 yards on Troy’s first five possessions of the second half, the defense allowed 154 and two touchdowns on the final two.
Clemson had to recover an onside kick with 43 seconds to play to seal the victory.
“I didn’t feel like we really complemented each other all day,” Venables said. “It was one of those funky days. We did not complement each other. When the offense started moving the ball there in the fourth quarter, we could not slam the door shut.
“You have to slam the door, but it was just one of those days. We could not feed off each other and that has been very rare. We have been really good and the next thing we know, we are up by twenty eight (points). But for whatever reason, we couldn’t do that today.”
What the Clemson defense did do was hold a Troy offense that had 706 yards of offense in Week 1 to 386 total yards, and to just 2 of 15 on third down. The Tigers also forced three turnovers for a second straight week.
Troy (1-1) started the second half with one four-play drive and followed it with three straight three-and-outs. Clemson started the game by forcing 3 three-and-outs on Troy’s first four possessions.
“We started the game right. Again, BAM! We get a three-and-out and get off the field rather quickly, and it was the same thing in the second half,” Venables said. “First possession, we have done that two weeks in a row. That comes from a group of guys that our focused and are intense. Are prepared and are serious.
“We have plenty of warts and things we have to get better at. Again, we played a ton of guys early and I feel like that is really going to pay off for us.”
Venables says his unit just has to start finishing what they’ve started, and if they do that then they have a chance to be a pretty good defensive football team.
“We defended a bunch of possessions. Tim (Bourret) was telling me we defended seventeen possessions. That’s a bunch of opportunities to defend,” Venables said. “In the end, we have to be more precise and tighten some things up.
“We aided it with two (pass interference) penalties and a late hit on the quarterback or whatever. Maybe we hit him low, but we helped facilitate a couple of those drives. We have to be better there in those situations.”
–Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports