Four of the Tigers’ 6 opponents have been held under 250 total yards
It had been a long time since Tre Lamar recorded a sack, but on the third offensive play of the game last week at Wake Forest, the junior broke through the line and slammed Wake quarterback Sam Hartman to the ground.
It was his first sack since the Florida State game last November.
“The D-line it seems has been stealing every sack, so it is definitely nice for the linebackers to get a couple and it was definitely nice to get two for me,” Lamar said.
Lamar’s second sack came later in the first quarter as he finished with two of the Tigers’ three sacks on the day. In all, the defense finished with 12 tackles for a loss and it was even more dominant in the 60-point win as the offense was.
In fact, Clemson’s defense has been dominant in just about every game this season. The Tigers held Wake Forest to a season-low 249 yards, its fewest total yards since 2016, when it was also Clemson’s defense that limited its offense.
In all, the Tigers (6-0, 3-0) have held four of their first six opponents to 249 yards or less. A fifth team, Syracuse, finished with just 311 yards of offense.
Clemson, who was off on Saturday, ranks third nationally in total defense (261.2 ypg), seventh in scoring defense (14.5 ppg), seventh in passing defense (152.8) and 17th in rushing defense (108.3).
“I feel good about our performance so far,” Lamar said. “I feel like we left some stuff on the table that we could have taken, but I feel like overall we are on an upper trend and we are only going to get better from here.”
Lamar is definitely on an upward trend. The middle linebacker leads the Tigers with 42tackles, 11 more than anyone else on the team. Besides his two sacks, he also has two quarterback pressures.
He isn’t the only linebacker having a good year, though. Weakside backer Kendall Joseph is averaging over six tackles per game and is tied with strongside backer Isaiah Simmons for second on the team with 31 tackles overall.
“I feel it is a couple of things, but I would say as linebackers, since we are kind of the leaders of the defense we have to make sure we get everyone set on time,” Lamar said. “We have played a couple of hurry-up offenses, so we have to make sure we really know our checks and get everybody placed.”
That will be big against NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC), who they play next Saturday at Death Valley. The Wolfpack come into the 3:30 p.m., kick leading the ACC in passing offense at 324 yards per game. The last two years, quarterback Ryan Finely has had his way with the Clemson defense.
The Tigers have been lucky to win both games. They won in overtime two years ago after State missed what would have been a game-winning field goal on the last play of regulation. Then last year, safety K’Von Wallace intercepted a pass at the goal line on the last play of the game to secure a seven-point win in Raleigh.
“They have a lot of great players,” Lamar said. “They have a great quarterback and a great offensive line, so you really have to approach the game with the same type of focus and stuff like that. It might not be the same type of reads, but you still have to make the correct reads because if you don’t they can hurt you.”
The winner of next Saturday’s game at Death Valley will be in control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division and the favorite to win the 2018 ACC Championship.