By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
A stern and serious Brent Venables took the podium for his weekly Tuesday press conference and described an equally stern message he sent to his unit following Saturday’s debacle against Florida State:
Saturday was bad. Deal with it, then move on to Maryland.
“There are mistakes that need to be corrected,” Venables said. “You don’t just sweep it under the rug and act like it never happened. It happened.”
Film study revealed exactly what Venables and more than 83,000 others saw on the Memorial Stadium field during Saturday’s game. There were a great deal of mental and physical errors that contributed to a 51-14 shellacking in front of a national television audience.
Venables says his defense—regarded as one of the best at Clemson in the past quarter-century heading into the game—did some good things, which cannot be ignored. He also showered praise on the Seminoles for executing and making things difficult for the Tigers.
But there was a crispness missing, he noted, that consistently separated the two adversaries on the field.
“It was the first game all year that we, as a defense, felt that we didn’t match their precision,” Venables said. “The effort was there, but the precision and the execution wasn’t what it needed to be. Against a good team, you get exploited and exposed pretty quick.”
Venables always has the look of someone who makes no room for nonsense, but there is special attention being paid to focus and making basic plays this week after the Tigers appeared to disengage under the weight of expectation and circumstance against the Seminoles. This sentiment was echoed by several players referencing the need to rediscover the importance of the little things again.
For young players—particularly in a banged-up secondary—handling adversity will be critical in order for the Tigers to avoid a repeat performance against Maryland this week. First-year players have never had to handle the aftermath of a loss at Clemson until this point, so Venables says it is up to him and his staff to keep spirits high in a responsible way so teaching and growing can occur.
“They’re going to feed off of us as coaches,” he said. “You bring juice and energy and put the facts in front of them. You understand that it’s not doom and gloom.”
The narrative on defense is that this is a new week with new challenges. Turning the page can be difficult, but Venables applauded the team’s leadership for being steady and firm in the face of a severe and unexpected setback.
“It’s no problem for those guys to keep guys’ minds in the right place,” Venables said. “It’s easy, if you allow it to happen, to get led down the wrong road.”
Maryland has highly-publicized issues at quarterback, where C.J. Brown and Caleb Rowe are listed as co-starters, and at wide receiver, where blue-chippers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are out for the season with broken legs. They are attempting to heal physically, just as Clemson is trying to heal emotionally this week.
Venables is committed to remaining even-keel and being up front with his players, allowing them to accept the Florida State result and make progress before they are faced with the next challenge.
It will come soon enough in College Park.