|by David Hood|
This season, the Tigers will once again take on an elite opponent as they prepare to take on Ohio St. – a team that came within a few plays of playing for the national championship – in the Discover Orange Bowl on January 3rd in Miami, Fla. Once again, the defensive line is fending off the naysayers who say that the Buckeyes’ elite offense will run all over Clemson’s defense.
That’s fine with junior defensive tackle DeShawn Williams.
"We're playing against 'The Ohio State Buckeyes.' We know that they're big-time, and we know they don't respect us,” Williams said earlier this week. “We just want to show them how us Southern boys can play."
However, stopping Ohio St.’s high-flying offense won’t be easy as stopping and LSU team that was one-dimensional and featured bizarre play-calling - Ohio State is led offensively by Big Ten offensive player of the year and quarterback of the Year Braxton Miller (1,860 passing yards and 22 touchdowns with just five interceptions; 1,033 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns) and Big Ten running back of the year Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards, 7.7 per carry average and 14 touchdowns).
The Buckeyes boast the nation's No. 3 rushing attack (317.5 ypg) and No. 4 scoring unit (46.3 ppg) while also being virtually unstoppable in the red zone with the nation's No. 4 pct. (.950; 57-60) and with a Top 10 passing efficiency rating of 158.78. In terms of total offense, Ohio State is No. 7 nationally at 518.5 yards per game.
So how do the Tigers stop the Buckeyes?
"First, we've just got to do our jobs," Williams said. “This is the same kind of game for us as last year. Like LSU, they're big up front and they get after you. What I see on tape is a team that's nasty up front, with a great running game. They're big and nasty and fast. They'll bloody your nose, get after you, take no prisoners and will try to finish you, overpower you and put their will on you. We need to show them that we can play with them."
However, the last time the Tigers took the field, they had a hard time stopping South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who repeatedly gashed Clemson’s defense on third down.
"The key is don't over-stride and get off and out of position," Williams said. "Collapse the pocket, and don't let the center or guard or tackle widen you out. We saw that we needed to be more tight in our rush lanes and collapse the pocket."
While Shaw is a good quarterback with decent speed, however, Miller is an entirely different kind of player according to Williams.
"Braxton has speed - he's a 4.2 or 4.3 guy," Williams said. "In this type of game, a BCS game, we know that all eyes are going to be on us that night. Everybody's got to stay in their lane and do their jobs, mind your P's and Q's, and don't try to do somebody else's job. With a player like Miller, you can't get over your gap. Because if you do, he'll find those gaps, and with the speed he last, he'll burst through it and make a house call. He's fast enough to do that."
Stopping Miller isn’t the only concern.
"When I watch Carlos Hyde, I see a big back with quick feet," Williams said. "I know in their Northwestern game, they had their grass cut kind of high to try to slow him down. But he's a big, strong runner with quick feet, and if you don't tackle him, he'll run away from you. They do what they do best, and that's run the ball. If they need to pass it, then they'll pass it. But you know they're going to run it. It's one of those games where you know it's going to come, and we just have anchor down, play a really physical ball game, and love it."
Williams finished by saying the Tigers have to approach this game like it’s all or nothing.
"This is our last game, and our last chance to reach one of our goals," he said. "So it's go hard, or go home. That's the way we're approaching it in practice. We're approaching this game like it's a one-game season. Winning the bowl game is important to us. You've got that momentum you carry with you, and nobody's talking bad about you. And beating Ohio State would erase a bad taste. The last time we went to the Orange Bowl, it wasn't very pleasant.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org