Venables happy for his road dogs and backups in rout of Irish

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson's defense celebrates early in the win over the Irish
Clemson's defense celebrates early in the win over the Irish

ARLINGTON, TX – Brent Venables gathered his defense in the locker room following Clemson’s 30-3 victory over Notre Dame and told the defensive leaders how much he respected and admired them. Then he had a message for his much-maligned secondary.

“Weakness? No way. We are a hell of a unit with you and because of you, not in spite of you. Great job, guys,” Venables told his players.

The huddle erupted in cheers and then chants of “road dogs” and barks as the players headed back to their lockers to dress and Venables broke into an appreciative smile.

“I love all of my guys. I always have. It's a special group,” Venables said. “Every year is different. You still love them every year. Sometimes it's harder than other years. This is an easy group of guys to coach. They're so focused and have a great humility to them. They have a great work ethic, a great confidence. We have great chemistry and tremendous cohesion on our football team, but it doesn't happen if you don't have the quality people that we have. We've got great leadership, that's for sure.”

The Irish entered the contest averaging 456 yards of total offense per game and 33.8 points per game but were held to just three points. The Irish gained 86 yards of offense in the first quarter but failed to reach that mark again and finished with 248 total yards with only 88 yards on the ground.

The Tigers did it without the services of big defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, but Venables said he is proud of his group for handling the adversity.

“I think handling adversity is a critical part of having success and sustaining success,” he said. “How you handle adversity is a big thing. Adversity for us as coaches and players pales in comparison to what Dexter - I speak for him as a defensive guy - to what he and his family are going through. I just hate it for him because we wouldn't here without him.”

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book said Clemson’s defense didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.

“Clemson, they have got a talented defense. And we just wanted to control what we could control,” Book said. “And I was trying to get through my reads as fast as I could. We needed to get first downs. We needed to get points on the board, and we just weren't able to get it done.”

Venables said the Tigers made enough mistakes to learn from, but for now would be happy to see so many backups step and play a role.

“We missed some opportunities, missed a few calls, missed a couple of blitzes,” he said. “I'm really happy for our guys. Albert Huggins stepped up. Nyles Pinckney, Jordan Williams really stepped up. Everybody really did.”

The Tigers will play for a national championship for the third time in four years.

“I don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure,” Venables said. “This group has been so special to coach, and right now it’s hard to think about next week because we are still celebrating this one. But this has been a lot of fun to share this with these guys.”

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