The best thing to come out of Saturday’s win over Syracuse, from a defensive standpoint, was the confirmation that if everyone does their job it is going to be hard to move the football on Clemson.
The fourth-ranked Tigers held Syracuse’s vaunted offense to 90 total yards in the second half. The Orange had just one drive longer than 25 yards in the final two quarters, and that was just a 27-yard drive in the third quarter.
Even their touchdown, which came off after Amari Rodgers muffed a punt at the Clemson 10 at the end of the third quarter, took four plays to get the ball into the end zone. Syracuse, who came into the game leading the ACC in total yards and scoring offense, was 0-for-7 on third down in the second half and just 3-for-15 overall.
“It supports the whole thing that everyone just do their job and do the little things well,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said on Monday. “Nobody has to play like Superman. It was awesome to be able on the field at the end and keep them from moving the ball.”
The Tigers weren’t doing those things in the second quarter, when the Orange scored 10 points and totaled 149 yards to build a 16-7 halftime lead. Quarterback Eric Dungey threw for 173 yards on 16-of-23 passing in the first 30 minutes.
However, in the second half, it was a different story. With the offense trying to figure things out after starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence went out with an injury in the second quarter, it was up to the defense to get the job done and prove once again why they are considered one of the best defenses in the country.
Though Dungey completed 10-of-15 passes, he threw for just 77 yards in the second half. The Orange ran for just 13 yards on 12 carries in the final two quarters as well. Syracuse had just three first downs.
“There is a lot of pride,” Venables said about the performance of his defense in the second half. “I’m happy for them. It is validation for doing the little things well. I think they had maybe eight possessions in the second half and we gave up the one score.
“It was fourth-and-one and if we don’t get nosey, I think we stop them. We had someone start peaking in the backfield because it was just a long and developing play and Dungey hung in there. If we just stay home, I think we had a chance to hold them out there, but I think a 27-yard drive was the longest drive they had in the second half. Again, it was just confirmation.”