'We just got beat by a better team'
For the first time since Clemson’s loss to LSU in the national championship game, defensive coordinator Brent Venables spoke to media as the Tigers wrapped up Day 5 of spring practice on Wednesday.
Like he was after the game, Venables was very complementary to LSU, an offense which racked up 628 yards and scored 42 points against his proud defense.
“When you make mistakes against real good explosive people, they will make you pay,” Venables said. “Mistakes as a play caller, mistakes in a leverage, mistakes situationally, third-and-19 … We played great in the red zone all year and had our worst game. We made too many critical errors and, again, they made us pay for some critical red zone mistakes.”
The hard part of it all for Venables was that his players played really well in most spots, but the explosive plays killed them especially when they were in position to make plays and did not make them.
“I think we had five explosive plays that we gave up on missed tackles,” he said. “That was a season high for explosive plays on missed tackles. But they outexecuted us in some other spots.”
The harsh reality of it all for Venables is that there is no guarantee they will make it back to the national championship again. That is why he knows his guys left it all out on the field. In the end, they can hold their heads high because they know the reason they lost was because LSU was the better team that night at the Superdome in New Orleans.
“I am stating the obvious, in some of this, but it is very painful to get there and come up short,” Venables said. “Those opportunities, they may never come up again. That is the reality, so you never take that for granted. First and foremost, look how incredibly fortunate you have to be to get there. You felt like you were good enough, but you certainly weren’t good enough on that night. The better team won.
“I am super proud of guys and our football team. I have coached and played in plenty of games where you are not as proud as you would like to be, but I’m very proud of our guys for the effort they put into it. We had some opportunities in the game, and we could not flip it when we needed to as a team.”
A lot of the “what if” plays for Venables was the third-and-19 play in which Derion Kendrick was called for pass interference that kept a scoring drive alive just before halftime. Another was a the third-and-10 screen pass LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase took 43 yards to the Clemson 16.
“We come underneath the block instead of outside and up the sideline he goes. It was just one of those nights,” Venables said. “For all the good that we did, we were on the wrong side of it against a really, really hot team.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of.”
And because of it, Venables says they don’t have to tell those players who played in the national title game anything. They’re motivated to make it right in 2020.
“Everybody that was a part of it knows what happened,” the Clemson coach said. “If you went out there and you looked like a bunch of chumps and we did not play with effort and we played like a bunch of meatheads and as coaches we did not have our team prepared, then you would be ashamed to represent yourself that way, but that could not be further from the case.
“You don’t need to say a lot. That was last year. This is a new team. A lot of those players are gone and will not ever play here again, so you start your journey over again like everything, both good and bad, you try to learn from your experiences and you try to share in those experiences maybe with guys that did not play. But I thought our guys were very well prepared. I thought they had a great mindset. Again, they played with incredible passion, effort, toughness and were physical. Again, they just got beat by a better team.”
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