By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It’s hard to say what number was more impressive. The fact Wake Forest rushed for only 1.9 yards per carry or had only 37 passing yards in the second half.
“When you can shut the run down, you know the pass is coming and that makes it a little easier,” Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey said. “A lot of that goes to our defensive line and being able to get pressure on the quarterback. They were making him scramble around and get rid of the ball quickly.”
The third-ranked Tigers were making Wake Forest do a lot of things that it did not want to do in Clemson’s 56-7 victory in Death Valley. They made the Demon Deacons uncomfortable from the start.
On Wake Forest’s first play, running back Josh Harris was smacked for no gain and then on second down he was shut down again, this time for a one-yard loss. On third down-and-11, defensive end Vic Beasley pressured quarterback Tanner Price into a bad pass that he short hooped to an open Michael Campanaro.
“That was a great stand. Our defensive line played great today,” Shuey said. “They were definitely destructive all night. From first quarter to fourth quarter, they definitely made their presence felt against their offensive line. It is definitely great for this defense. If you can stop the run, you can stop a lot of things.”
The Demon Deacons (2-3, 0-2 ACC) gained just 60 yards on the ground and totaled only 222 overall. With the exception of one drive, the Clemson defense smothered them all afternoon and at times embarrassed them.
Wake Forest was sacked three times and pressured countless others. The Tigers held Wake to only two successful third down conversions on 14 attempts. The Deacons had only 14 first downs overall and turned the ball over twice and had three sacks.
“You like the positioning of our guys and I think we improved today,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “But we still have some things to improve on. Again, tackling has to be better and some coverage things have to be better, but overall it was better.”
Saturday’s performance has to be put into perspective, too. Wake Forest was not that great on offense to begin with. The Demons Deacons were averaging just 121 yards a game on the ground prior to Saturday’s domination.
“From my perspective, our guys are playing hard and with great effort,” Venables said. “Don’t get me wrong. They were well prepared going into the game, but they were going against a group that was very inexperienced and we are going to see better (offenses) here down the road.”
Venables is right. Syracuse will give the Tigers (4-0, 2-0) a better challenge next week as the Tigers visit the Carrier Dome for the first time, while Boston College will definitely bring some offense into Death Valley in two weeks.
Then on Oct. 19, the whole world will be watching when freshman sensation Jameis Winston brings in a powerful Florida State offense that has not been close to being slowed down through four games.
But those games are in the coming weeks. What happened on Saturday in Death Valley was a sign the future continues to look bright on the defensive side of the ball at Clemson. Right now, it’s time to celebrate that.
It’s time to celebrate a defense that gave up only four first downs and 80 total yards in the second half though it started with a 35-7 cushion.
“I was pleased that our guys made some good second-half adjustments,” Venables said. “I love how we are playing with great effort. I thought our guys were physical up front. Keeping them out of the end zone in the second half, I was very pleased with that.”
Since giving up 35 points to a Georgia team that has proven no one can slow them down, the Tigers have yielded only 13, 14 and 7 points in consecutive weeks. Do the math. That’s just 34 points.
Granted South Carolina State, NC State and Wake Forest are not on the same level as Georgia offensively, but few teams will be.
What the Clemson defense has shown in the last couple of weeks is that it can be consistent and when playing a team it is far more superior than, it can be dominate. That’s what good defenses do.
“We have established a little bit of an identity. To be able to come out a couple of weeks in a row and consistently perform at the level we have, it’s been good,” Shuey said. “Next week, if we come out and lay an egg, people will forget about how good we played this week.
“So we just have to move on to the next week now. I’m glad that we played well. We still have to make some corrections, but as long as we make those, we should be good.”