Defense erasing the past with big plays

Defense erasing the past with big plays

Football

Defense erasing the past with big plays

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By Will Vandervort.

By Will Vandervort

Vic Beasley has not scored a touchdown since his days of being a running back in high school. So it would not have been a surprise if the junior went into a celebration mode following his 13-yard scoop-and-score in the fourth quarter of No. 3 Clemson’s 24-14 victory over Boston College Saturday in Death Valley.

But he did not do it. Why?

“I wanted to celebrate, but I did not want to penalize the team,” said the Tigers’ game captain.

Beasley’s ability to restrain himself not only speaks volumes about his maturity in the last few years, but it also speaks about the maturity of this year’s Clemson team and, of course, the defense.

Still not even two years removed from a colossal whooping in the Orange Bowl, Clemson’s defense has done almost everything it can to make that performance against West Virginia a memory instead of a constant remainder.

With next week’s huge showdown with sixth-ranked Florida State finally in the crosshairs, they will have a chance to fully redeem themselves with divisional, conference and national championship aspirations at stake.

“It’s ridiculous to still hear about it,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said.

“This is the best defense we have had since ’09, essentially. These guys have been improving every year. Coach (Brent) Venables has been doing a great job putting these guys in situations. Hats off to those guys. They went out there and performed. That’s all you can really ask for. As an offense, all you can ask is to get the ball back. We had opportunities.”

The defense gave the offense plenty of opportunities against Boston College. They ended the first half with three straight three-and-out efforts. They started the second half by forcing another punt and then recorded one of their five sacks.

“We’re trying to make the world notice us,” Beasley said.

And they are.

When it was time to put a pesky team away and move forward to next week’s showdown with the Seminoles—Death Valley’s first battle between two ACC teams ranked in the top 10—linebacker Tony Steward and Beasley made a play that broke the Eagles’ spirit and lifted the Tigers to victory.

Steward chased Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig down, stripped him of the football while he was going down, then Beasley scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 13 yards for the game-clinching score.

“I was looking forward to getting the ball back and going down and scoring, but Vic did that on his own,” Boyd said.

On a day when Boyd and the offense was not at their best, especially in the first half when they failed to get anything more than a Chandler Catanzaro 35-yard field goal, the defense stepped up and made one big play after another.

The nation’s leading rusher, Andre Williams, was held to 2.9 yards per carry. Boston College as a whole totaled only 286 yards overall and ran the ball for 94 yards. BC’s 14 points marked the fifth straight game the defense has given up 14 points or less in a season since 1989. Nickel back Korrin Wiggins had a second-quarter interception and then there was Beasley’s scoop-and-score.

“All of us coaches are happy and pleased with our guys by continuing to work hard and to see all the investment that has taken place is paying off and having success,” Venables said. “They deserve it. They have earned it. It has not just happened by accident.

“When you do all of those things right, this should be the result. There is still room for improvement, but we are pleased with where we are.”

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