Third-ranked Clemson is preparing for a huge ACC Atlantic Division showdown between two top five teams on Saturday in Death Valley. With ESPN’s College Gameday coming to town for an 8 p.m. primetime kickoff on ABC, there is a different level of excitement formulating on Clemson’s campus for the matchup against No. 4 Louisville. For the players and coaches however, it was business as usual in Monday’s interview sessions.
Here is what we heard:
Quarterback Deshaun Watson said despite the hype, it is just another game in Death Valley that the Tigers will have to prepare equally as hard for.
“All of that talk is for the fans to draw attention to this game. It is for the media. It is for the money. All of that stuff,” Watson said. “At the end of the day, it is Clemson vs. Louisville. We are going to focus on what we have to do at Clemson and do what we want to do. We can’t worry about what Louisville is doing or what Lamar Jackson is doing. We have to focus on what we are doing and prepare throughout the week and go out there on Saturday and execute.”
The defense knows they will have their hands full with Louisville’s elite quarterback. Linebacker Ben Boulware has faith defensive coordinator Brent Venables to come up with a dynamic game plan against Jackson.
“Usually, the quarterback hands the ball off and he just sits there. Now that he is running the ball, they use the running back as another blocker so we have to have an extra hat. Defenses have had a difficult time adapting to that. I know Coach V will cook something up for us,” Boulware said.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell said the defensive unit aims to dominate in every matchup.
“We’re going to go into the game looking to dominate the game because that’s just how our defense is,” Ferrell said. “We look at every game as we have to go in and we have to try and dominate the game because that’s just the type of defense that we want to be.”
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said Louisville’s veteran defense will also provide a lot of challenges.
“They’re not just going to sit back and play base defense. They’re going to move a lot of guys around. You have to be prepared for the different blitzes and the different looks you’re going to get,” Scott said. “His guys always play physical, and all those guys are very active.”
While Jackson has received the majority of the nation’s attention so far after leading the country with 25 total touchdowns in four games, Boulware stuck up for his own quarterback’s abilities.
“The one that plays here is pretty similar. Everyone loves to talk about Lamar and Deshaun has kind of been in the background. I was like, ‘We have a pretty good quarterback here, too,’” Boulware said. “They are almost identical. Getting to go against Deshaun all throughout fall camp the last three years is pretty good preparation for Lamar Jackson.”
Watson said he values having the opportunity to compete against the best athletes.
“All the great ones love the great competition going against the best regardless,” Watson said. “He has to do what he has to do, and I have to do what I have to do. We are both going against two good defenses on both sides so we just have to go out there and do what we have to do and be ourselves.”