The No. 3 Clemson Tigers’ 14-6 victory over the No. 13 Auburn Tigers Saturday night in Death Valley could not have been done without Clemson’s relentless defense who held Auburn to just a total of 117 yards.
After the game the media spoke with head coach Dabo Swinney along with quarterback Kelly Bryant, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, defensive end Austin Bryant, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and linebacker Kendall Joseph Kendall Joseph. Here is what we heard:
“What a hard-fought, gritty game,” said Swinney. “Two good teams battling it out. It’s been a long time since we’ve punted the ball that many times and played conservative but man, that’s about as good of a defensive performance as I’ve seen in a long time, 42 rushes for 38 yards, 11 sacks.”
Saturday’s defensive effort was the most sacks for the ACC Tigers since they had 11 against Utah State in 2004.
“Offensively, we couldn’t really get in rhythm the first part of the game because we couldn’t get the ball,” Swinney said. “We had the ball maybe two minutes in the first quarter and really just couldn’t get into sync but really the last drive before the half was a thing of beauty. We hit our rhythm and got some tempo going.”
After a slow start for the Clemson offense along with Bryant getting injured and leaving the game for a few plays, he returned and responded with a rushing touchdown with 48 seconds left in the first half. He then added another 27-yard rushing touchdown in the opening drive of the third quarter to make the score, 14-6.
“That’s football, some days it’s going to be clicking like last week (against Kent State) and some days it’s not so pretty,” Bryant said after the game. “All that matters is we got the win against a good opponent so on to next week.”
Clemson couldn’t have gotten the win without the domination of their defense which held Auburn to less than o.9 yards yard per carry on the ground.
“You can definitely expect what’s coming if you shut down the run,” Wilkins said. “If you do all that you can, put in a good week of preparation like we did, and prepare for the run like we did, it makes them one-dimensional and they have no other option but to pass.”
Bryant ended the night with seven tackles, while tying a school record with four sacks. However, he gave high praise to the secondary in the post-game interviews.
“They were awesome tonight,” the junior said. “A lot of those sacks we had were off of our second or third rushes throughout the play. They were able to cover those guys up and give us plenty of time to get to them. Once he (Jarrett Stidham) started scrambling it was up to us to run him down. That’s what we did and it was just beautiful.”
Ferrell was proud of the defense for being part that was relentless all night and he feels that it is a stepping stone to reaching the ultimate goal of becoming one of the best defenses in school history.
“It feels great, this is something we set out to do when we first came here,” he said. “We wanted to be known as one of the best defenses in Clemson history by the time we leave here. We are a long ways away from that goal but I feel like that’s a good start and one of the milestones you have to hit.”
Joseph says the team is obviously pleased with the win but the season is only beginning and it’s already time to focus on next week’s opponent as Clemson travels to Louisville, Ky., to take on the Cardinals and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“To go against a great opponent and put out a performance like that is always good and you can feel good about yourself for a little bit, but like Coach (Brent Venables) preaches, we have a great talented quarterback we are facing next week, a great offense and we can’t get too happy because then we will go out there and get embarrassed so we are already looking forward to next week.”