Brent Venables does not care if his defense is on the field for 99 plays or 60, the goal is still the same – keep the other team from scoring one more point than his team.
So far mission accomplishment for Venables and No. 3 Clemson. The Tigers enter Saturday’s Homecoming Game against NC State with a perfect 6-0 mark, including a 3-0 record in the ACC.
Clemson, once again, is considered to have one of the best defenses in the country. It currently ranks ninth in total defense (282.2) and eighth in scoring defense (15.0). However, some question whether the Tigers can keep that up considering they have been on the field for an average of 38 minutes in each of their last two wins over Louisville and Boston College.
The Cardinals ran 99 plays, aided by five Clemson turnovers and five touchdowns that took less than a minute off the clock each time, and possessed the football for 37:29. Boston College ran 72 plays, again aided by four Clemson scoring drives that took less than two minutes off the clock, and had the ball for 38:08.
In their wins over Louisville and Boston College, the Tigers have had quick strike touchdowns of 33, 24, 37, 20, 31, 59, 56, 29 and 45 yards.
“That is just a terrible problem to have,” Venables smiled and said sarcastically.
Venables said having to come back onto the field to defend after a quick touchdown is way better than the alternative, like a turnover or a three-and-out. He used the Tigers’ last regular season loss at Georgia Tech back in 2014 as perfect example.
“We are down there and we are really playing pretty good (on defense), but we are not playing great on offense,” he said.
Clemson lost that game 28-6 as the offense had nine three-and-outs that afternoon, less than 200 yards, turned the football over three times and had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The defense on the other hand held Georgia Tech to 353 yards of total offense and gave up just one offensive touchdown.
But Venables is quick to point out that it works both ways. In last year’s game against NC State, the defense struggled as it gave up one big play after another. But on that afternoon, the offense carried the Tigers to a 56-41 victory as it racked up 623 total yards, while quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 23 of 30 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns.
“How you got there is a little bit different, but its torcher,” Venables said.
Clemson’s defensive coordinator says he just wants his defense to play their best each and every Saturday, knowing if they do that, no matter how long they are on the field that will help put the Tigers in the best position possible to win the game.
“You actually feel decent when you are playing well on defense. All wins are great and all of that, but I feel much better when we play well than when we don’t win and play well,” he said. “That being said, if they are scoring, then great. When that happens then it does change dramatically what is going on with our opponent when that is happening. Maybe making them more predictable and lot of that has to do with how we are playing.”
First and foremost, says Venables, the most important thing as a coaching staff and as a football team is that they understand they are a team first. They win and lose as a team regardless of how well or bad a particular unit plays.
“Our job is to stop people. Period! Point blank! End of story! Now, if they are going three-and-out all the time and they are not scoring and we are right back on the field … that goes without saying. That does not help you if they are going really fast, but that should not change our mindset and our attitude,” Venables said. “We have been incredibly fortunate because we have been really good on offense for five years and have been incredibly explosive, and for the most part have complimented each other well.
“When we have complimented each other, we have crushed people.”