ORLANDO, Fla.– Finishing off games easy has not been the storyline for Clemson this season. Making a game-saving stand, the Clemson defense was able to help the Tigers’ snatch their second consecutive ACC Championships in a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech Saturday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
“I hate it comes down to that. Coach (Dabo) Swinney tells us to finish strong when it comes down to the last play and we finished,” defensive tackle Carlos Watkins said. “I can’t tell you why. We just really need to finish. When you have an opponent pinned down, you just need to go ahead and put him down. I guess we have to get that corrected. Against great teams, we can’t allow them to come back in the game.”
Watkins played a big part in helping the Tigers win back-to-back ACC Championships for the first time in 28 years. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior recorded five total tackles including one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Watkins single sack gave him 8.5 for the season, the most by a Clemson defensive tackle since Vance Hammond’s 8.5 in 1990.
Though Virginia Tech as able to come up with some big drives in the second half, Watkins made some big stops.
“I was very relieved. I was very fatigued at the time. I was like we need this stop and we came through,” the defensive tackle said.
Despite allowing a third-and-11 conversion that ignited the Hokies’ offense in the third quarter, the Tigers defense was still able to fight through and secure the win.
“Coach (Brent) Venables apologized for that call. (Jerod Evans) had all day to throw the ball, but we can’t be caught in the situation like that again. If he is sitting in there that long than somebody has to go in and get the quarterback,” Watkins said.
“That was disappointing at crunch time but proud that they rebounded and got that stop on their own fourth down on that last drive but yeah, we have let some people hang around and it drives you bananas sometimes, ” said Venables, Clemson’s defensive coordinator.
Coming up big for the Tigers when the game has been on the line, the defense has fought through and helped the Tigers continue on their road to the College Football Playoff.
“We have made some huge stops and huge plays in a bunch of games this year and it was great timing to get another win tonight,” Venables said.