Branch puts on a show in Blacksburg

by - Senior Writer -

Andre Branch (WMA Format)

BLACKSBURG, VA. – Andre BranchAndre Branch
RS Sr. Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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saved the best for the home folks.

The senior defensive end from Richmond, Va., said earlier this week that he relished the chance to play another game in his home state when the Clemson Tigers played Saturday night in Blacksburg against the No. 11 Virginia Tech Hokies.

And he proved it.

Playing in front of 60 close friends and family, Branch had the best game of his Clemson career – he had a career-high tying 11 tackles (11 vs. Wofford this year), a career-high three sacks and a career-high five tackles for loss in Clemson’s victory.

His tackle for loss total is tied for the second best in Clemson history for a single game. The only total higher is the six by Keith Adams against Duke in 1999. He joins Michael Dean Perry as the only defensive lineman with five in a game - Perry had five in a game against N.C. State in 1987. His five tackles for loss were the most ever by a Clemson player in a road game and he is the first Tiger with three sacks in a game since Da’Quan Bowers had three against Maryland last year.

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Branch has that “knack” that great pass rushers need.

“Andre has a knack for rushing the passer,” Steele said. “When it became one dimensional, I think he became the thing that he really likes to do, but I don’t think that’s unusual for a defensive end. Those guys like to rush the passer. They don’t like to play the power plays.”

Branch said that his game was a result of Steele putting the game on the shoulders of the front four.

“Coach Steele, on the plays that I got my sacks on, said that he was going to put it on the front four and we just answered the bell,” Branch said. “Everyone has been questioning our defense, and we just wanted to answer the bell. Our offense always plays great each and every week and we just wanted to do the same.”

Branch said having the game of his life meant more because of who was in attendance.

”I had about 60 people here,” he said. “It felt great coming back home, but like Coach Steele always tells me, ‘this is what I do.’ Each and every week, I need to keep getting better. Tonight it was speed rush and speed the pile. Coach [Marion] Hobby always harps on mixing it up and each pass rush I do, I never do the same one. On one play I set them up and on the next one I change the pass rush.”

He also said that holding the Hokies to a second quarter field goal – after they had driven to the Clemson two-yard line – was a game-changer.

“That was a momentum builder,” he said. “After we did, that our offense just kept rolling and putting points up on the board. Like we said, if they didn’t score it then we knew that we were going to win. That’s all we had to do and we answered that.”

Other Branch quotes

On shutting down Tech after Wilson’s big run

“That’s adversity. We always talk about getting better after adversity happens. Great teams are always going to make great plays. We knew that was going to happen here and there. We just had to answer that and if they make a big play just make sure that they don’t have another big play right after that.”

On Va. Tech

“Virginia Tech is a great team. They are a smash mouth team also. We feel like as a team that nobody can just line up and run against us. [David] Wilson is a great running back- very balanced and fast. We know that they were going to run the ball, but it was up to us to stop it.”

On defense taking over

“We always feel like that we are the best that we can be. Just like Coach Steele always says, ‘the sky is limit for us, but if we can’t ever do that then we can’t do that.’ Everybody on the defense said that we were going to win this game because they aren’t scoring anymore.”

On play of Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Fr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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“Stephone is an amazing player. In these next few years, he is going to be on a lot of lists. Stephone-you can say that he’s young, but he just has that mentality to be great. In the next few years, he’s going to be everywhere. He’s a great player. When he comes in the game, there’s no drop-off.”

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