Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was candid and straightforward Wednesday when reflecting on how the Tigers’ 2020 season came to an end with their 49-28 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
Speaking to the media for the first time since then, Venables admitted the Tigers did a poor job of getting the team prepared to play the Buckeyes on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“Obviously you don’t play like you play, perform like you perform, and all of a sudden you did a great job getting prepared or had this great game plan but just didn’t execute,” Venables said. “That’s all of it. It wasn’t anyth ing worth a flip. The preparation, the game plan – just burn it all.”
Clemson’s defense allowed 639 yards of total offense to Ohio State, which rushed for 254 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
Buckeyes running back Trey Sermon racked up 193 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, while quarterback Justin Fields completed 22-of-28 passes for 385 yards and threw for six touchdowns.
“We got physically worked and they got after us in every way, all three levels of our defense,” Venables said. “We were out-physicaled, and I don’t think we had the right mindset. I think that goes without saying.
“I think they established the run early and it set up play-action passes. We let guys run by us in three deep and two deep, and we let guys run right through us. They didn’t set the edge all day. We got knocked off the ball, and it was a bad night coaching and playing, to say the least.”
Venables put the Sugar Bowl loss into perspective and pointed out that while the defense had a bad night, it did plenty of good things last season.
“If you look at us compared to the other playoff teams, we were number one in defense and all the statistical categories – 15 of 26 categories – whether that’s total defense, pass defense, rush defense, sacks, tackles for loss, third down defense, all those,” he said. “There’s a lot that is positive.
“Certainly we had an excellent year and a terrible ending, and a lot to learn from. It’s a humbling experience and lot of self-evaluation, and again, we’ve got to get better.”
Venables said it all starts with being more physical on all three levels of the defense as well as improving the run fundamentals.
“We’ve got to be able to improve our ability to dominate and we’ve got to stop the run,” he said. “Overall on the year I think we gave up just barely over three yards a carry, which is excellent, but we didn’t show against Ohio State. They gave it to us, so we’ve got to live with that and learn from that.”
At the end of the day, Venables isn’t making any excuses for the Tigers’ performance against the Buckeyes.
“Again, overall, just a humbling experience,” he said. “We didn’t coach them worth a dang. Certainly didn’t play well in any way, shape or form and just did a poor job getting them ready for it. It’s unfortunate.”
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