There may not be a lot of people who are impressed with Clemson’s 49-0 victory over The Citadel on Saturday. But do not tell that to defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Venables has become known as the master of defending the triple-option offense, as his Clemson defenses consistently slowed down Paul Johnson’s attack at Georgia Tech for a good number of years. Mastering the triple-option is not an easy thing to do in this wide-open-spread-the-ball-all-over-the-field world of college football.
Few players these days have even seen the triple option in high school. So, when the top-ranked Tigers hold a triple-option team to 86 rushing yards and 1.8 yards per carry, no matter what level they come from, it is impressive to say the least.
That is what Venables defense did to The Citadel at Death Valley. The Bulldogs’ longest run was 17 yards and quarterback Brandon Rainey, the team’s top rusher, was held to minus-8 yards and was never a factor.
“They have done a good job going against Power 5 schools, whether it was Georgia Tech last year or South Carolina or Tuscaloosa (Alabama). They have gotten after people,” Venables said.
The did not get after the Tigers though. While the offense was scoring every time it touched the football in the first half, the defense was getting a stop and getting off the field. They even scored themselves when linebacker James Skalski picked up a fumble and rumbled 17 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m just really proud of our guys for having that toughness about them,” Venables said. “Again, we were able to play a lot of guys early on and guys really showed a good awareness, a sense of urgency and the discipline that it takes to play against a group like this.”
The shutout was Clemson’s first since the 2016 season, when it had three that year, blanking S.C. State, Syracuse and then Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. That Clemson team went on to win the national championship.
“In some aspects the triple option will not help you, but the discipline, the physical toughness, the fundamentals, staying square, squeezing, stepping with the right foot and staying disciplined with your eyes, those are all things you have to have every single week,” Venables said. “So, this will make us better.”
It might be scary to opposing offenses to hear the Tigers can be better on defense. In the first two games, Clemson limited Wake Forest and The Citadel to 1.1 and 1.8 yards per carry. The Demon Deacons ran for 37 yards against Clemson, while The Citadel managed just 86 yards on Saturday.
By the way, the Tigers had 12 tackles for loss and four sacks on Saturday.
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