By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Much is made of the comfort of home and the challenge of the road in college football. Familiarity breeds confidence for the team playing in its home stadium, and it can have the opposite effect on the opposition.
But some players and coaches particularly relish the opportunity to compete and play well on the road. Count Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables among that group.
“I like the whole idea of having your back against the wall going on the road,” he said. “I really like that. Hopefully, our guys have that kind of mentality because that’s what it’s going to take if we have any opportunity to win the game.”
Carter-Finley Stadium, where Venables will attempt to shut down N.C. State on Thursday night, doesn’t appear to be a menace for opposing teams. It ranks eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in official capacity (57,583) but has a reputation for being a boisterous environment.
The Tigers struggled to deal with Carter-Finley during their last visit two years ago. Offensively, the game was a nightmare, and the defense paid the price by constantly playing with short fields.
Venables was not on staff for that game, but he expects to be impressed during his first trip to Raleigh.
“It’s supposed to be a great atmosphere,” he said. “It’ll be charged up for us, a great platform for both teams.”
The longtime Big 12 defensive coordinator knows a thing or two about entering hostile places and having success. He says it comes from developing intelligent, instinctive, aggressive players that can hone in on the task at hand, no matter where the game is being played.
Venables also noted that—given this era of high-speed college football—the best defenses contain players who can continue to adapt on the fly throughout the game.
“I don’t think you can build in excuses for failure,” he said of handling adverse conditions. “If you start justifying failure, you’re going to have a lot of problems. Guys aren’t going to be nearly as invested.
“You could play in one call the whole game, but you’ll get your teeth kicked in. You won’t stop anybody.”
Venables has some familiarity with the Wolfpack, albeit not under favorable circumstances. Mike Glennon and company scored 48 points on his defense last season, so he says simply understanding the plethora of personnel coming back for N.C. State might not be enough to stop the Dave Doeren-led attack.
“Whatever we thought going in didn’t work a year ago,” Venables said. “I don’t know how much that’ll help us.”
Above all else, Venables wants his team to be on the attack when they take the field in the unfamiliar confines of Carter-Finley Stadium. He knows what his job is. He is to keep the momentum of the game in the Tigers’ favor by getting quick stops.
“If you allow the crowd to be in the game, you put yourself at a disadvantage when you’re on the road,” Venables said. “You have to have that road-dog mentality. You win with defense and special teams. If the offense gives us anything, that’s great.”
Winning with defense would be a far cry from what the Tigers did in last year’s 62-48 win over the Wolfpack. But it would certainly make Venables a happy camper.