Defense licking its wounds

Defense licking its wounds

Football

Defense licking its wounds

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By William Qualkinbush.

By William Qualkinbush

After a difficult weekend on the gridiron, sometimes getting back onto the field is the best medicine.

By that logic, Saturday’s game at Maryland cannot come soon enough for the Clemson defense.

The Tigers were torched for 51 points—44 allowed by the defensive unit—in a deflating loss to Florida State on Saturday. The atmosphere was charged, the stakes were high, and by all accounts, Clemson fell flat in the moment.

Still, half a season awaits, and redemption can begin with earnest in College Park against a wounded Terrapins team as long as the Tigers can put the bad memories of an opportunity lost in the rear view mirror.

“We’re not worried about anything lingering over us,” linebacker Stephone Anthony said. “We can’t let one get two. We’re going to continue to move on and get better as a defense.”

Part of moving on and getting better involves identifying miscues on film that allowed Florida State to sprint up and down the field with relative ease, particularly in the second half. It is a quick process that must be handled carefully since another worthy adversary is just a few days ahead on the schedule.

For younger players, this process can be tricky to navigate. This puts the onus on veterans like defensive end Corey Crawford to provide assistance to the players who comprise the program’s future core.

“They’ll be there longer than our older guys because we’re getting ready to leave,” Crawford said. “We just have to show them that things don’t always fall the way you have them planned to happen, so you just have to learn from it and keep going.”

The Tigers routinely put themselves in precarious positions defensively against the Seminoles by committing turnovers on offense. On several occasions, Brent Venables’ defense was asked to defend a short field after the offense gave the football away.

A deflating loss in a contest of such magnitude can lead to units or position groups playing the blame game in trying to assign culpability for the mistakes. But the Tigers have been adamant about the shared responsibility that exists in all meeting rooms this week.

“There was frustration,” safety Robert Smith said, “but you can’t blame one part of the team. You can’t say, ‘The offense should have done this,’ or, ‘The defense should have done that,’ because we all take responsibility for all of that happening.”

Several members of the Clemson defense spent portions of Saturday’s game off the field due to injury. This has been a particular issue in the defensive backfield, where preseason injuries have already cost some potential contributors a chance to play this season.

The Tigers will head to Maryland without cornerbacks Garry Peters—who has a foot injury—and Bashaud Breeland, who is suspended for the first half after a targeting ejection against the Seminoles. The players who remain refuse to make excuses, making the secondary a microcosm of the “keep calm and carry on” philosophy within the program.

“You can’t worry about that,” cornerback Martin Jenkins said. “You’ve got to just play the game. Injuries happen, so you have to go out there and just believe in the person next to you.”

Belief can be hard to manufacture after an emotionally draining Saturday, but Clemson’s defense will need it in order to achieve the rest of its goals this season.

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