Clemson's defense made plays when it had to

Clemson's defense made plays when it had to

Football

Clemson's defense made plays when it had to

Wallace's late interception secures Tigers' win over NC State

RALEIGH, N.C. — Though his defense was shaky for much of the afternoon against NC State’s offense, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables felt fine when the Wolfpack had the ball and were driving for what could have been the game-tying score in the final minutes.

“I felt we were in really good control in the second half,” he said. “I felt very good about our guys and the matchups, so guys made plays when they had to.”

And that was the story of the game for the fourth-ranked Tigers’ defense. Though it did not play its best, it made the necessary plays when it had to the most in a 38-31 victory over No. 20 NC State.

After being picked apart by quarterback Ryan Finley and the Wolfpack offense in the first half, the defense settled down in the second half and made some critical stops, while also getting two interceptions in the fourth quarter on a quarterback that had thrown just one all season.

NC State’s first four possessions of the second half resulted in punts, including two straight three-and-outs, which allowed Clemson to grab its first lead of the game late in the third quarter.

“I’m really proud of them,” Venables said. “They showed a lot of courage, a lot of grit, a lot of toughness and we played a lot of young guys out there.”

One of those young guys was safety K’Von Wallace, who came in and played strong safety for an injured Tanner Muse, who was ineffective due to the broken hand he suffered against Georgia Tech the week before.

Wallace came up huge on the final drive. With NC State at the Clemson 28-yard line and facing a third-and-10, the sophomore ran over to break up what looked like a sure touchdown pass to tight end Jaylen Samuels near the goal line. Then a play later he ended the game with an interception at the 9-yard line to secure the Tigers’ victory.

“It was huge,” Venables said. “Tanner has got that big ole nub out there, Isaiah (Simmons) was another freshman we had out there so we had to move those guys around and put Van (Smith) at free (safety) and moved him over to strong.

“He really did a nice job. Those were two huge plays in the game. He is just a sophomore, but he really showed up big on a big stage when our backs were against the wall and we have to find a way to get a stop. I was real proud of him.”

Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC) ended up allowing a season-high 491 yards and 31 points to the ‘Pack, but NC State scored just 10 points in the second half and the Tigers did it with their backs against the wall and a lot of young people playing due to injuries.

Besides Wallace’s game-saving interception, Ryan Carter had a fourth-quarter interception that led to a Kelly Bryant touchdown, which turned out to be the game-winning score. The play before that, defensive end Clelin Ferrell got a 9-yard sack which set up the interception. It was the lone sack by either team.

“They don’t all come easy,” Venables said. “You have to take the bad with the good and the good with the bad and at the end of the day find a way to get it done. So you don’t really think about it too much. You have to react, you have to adjust and you have to move on. You don’t have much time.”

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