According to Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s defense had its best performance in the Tigers’ win over Virginia Tech last Saturday.
Clemson controlled the line of scrimmage and halted the Hokies run game to just 90 yards on the ground, while allowing just 342 total yards. The Tigers also forced three turnovers, its best of the season and doubled the amount of turnovers they had through four games.
A key cog in Clemson’s success on the defensive side of the ball has been 2016 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Dexter Lawrence, who forced one of those three turnover against the Hokies.
“I didn’t even know I caused a fumble,” Lawrence said. “When I was running off the field, coach asked me if I caused a fumble. Of course I said yes. I honestly didn’t know until after the game and everyone told me I did.
“That’s what we focused on in practice. Attacking the ball, trying to get the ball out every day. We always try to win the turnover margin. That’s what Coach (Dabo) Swinney preaches.”
For the most part, defensive coordinator Brent Venables was pleased with his defense’s performance in last week’s win. Clemson held Virginia Tech to 4-of-15 on third down conversations, but the Tigers did have a slip up when the Hokies scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Even that last drive, they were making some plays offensively,” Venables. “You’re okay with that. You don’t like that you have to make a play on fourth down, you have the ball in your hands, and we’re not quite where we need to be on that last touchdown pass.”
Despite dominating the whole game, Lawrence said it still stings to give up easy scores.
“We never want to see that,” Lawrence said. “Knowing that we were still going to win the game, but letting them score a touchdown…that didn’t go over too well with us.”
Looking ahead, Venables sees areas of improvement for his unit. Looking back at the last Virginia Tech touchdown, playing from snap to whistle is essential on every play. It’s pride and standard driven.
“Finishing. Finishing series, finishing plays, and finishing the quarters,” Lawrence said. “That’s just what he harped on the most. He feels like that’s coming from us just being disciplined and not losing focus as the game goes on.”