Class in Session: Venables says defense learned in valuable lab session Saturday
|Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 8:04 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Clemson’s defense was in class Saturday night at Texas A&M, a late-night lab session that will pay dividends down the road.
Texas A&M put up 501 yards of total offense on Brent Venables’ defense, including 430 yards through the air. A whopping 201 of those yards came in the final quarter when the Aggies scored two touchdowns to pull within 28-26.
Members of the Clemson secondary have come under criticism for the effort, but Venables says the entire secondary wasn’t at fault.
"I don't think that's safe to say because I thought Trayvon (Mullen) and AJ (Terrell) played really well. I was disappointed at times where we lacked the same things I just said,” Venables said Monday. “Where we lost leverage - whether it's man, or two deep or quarters - again, just not playing with the discipline with our eyes. That was a team that is good enough to expose you if you're not looking at the same things."
The lab was open for learning, and Venables says he hopes the players will be better for the experience.
"You do that through failure. We had a nice laboratory on Saturday night to work through that,” he said. “And that's what happens when you have some guys that maybe aren't as experienced or even guys who are in some bad habits. You need to have some failure to really expose them.
"I thought our guys played with great effort. I thought we came out and had a good first half. I thought that Texas A&M's quarterback Mond and their receivers made terrific plays. I'm disappointed in eye discipline and leveraging certain coverages. But, as the game wore on, guys started to do too much. I thought our guys up front did great. I thought they had a plan to try to slow them down and neutralize them. I still thought that they were very disruptive - I think we knocked the quarterback to the ground 18 times.”
Venables then said he was proud of the fact that his group fought until the last play.
"I'm very proud of the fight they had to the end. We made some incredible plays in the game that were difference makers,” he said. “Whether it's the blocked field goal, K'Von (Wallace) popping the ball out, the pick at the end, Clelin Ferrell with the forced fumble and Justin Foster coming up with it. There's a lot to build on, we've got a lot of work to do to become a really good defense and get that cohesion and consistency to where it needs to be.
“It's just some discipline things - again, eye discipline - and trust in the scheme and what we're doing. We had a couple guys that were wide open twice in Cover 2 where we, again, just lost leverage. Another time in quarters coverage. We just have to play a little bit better and a little bit smarter. Credit to A&M for making some really good plays in the game."
Venables said he expects teams will continue to test the Clemson secondary.
"That's the game. People are gonna try to run it and they're gonna try to throw it,” he said. “Whether you defended it well or not, they're still gonna keep trying to run it or throw it. If you put stuff that doesn't look good on tape, then they're gonna check your oil. So, ready or not here we come."
A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was able to keep plays alive by avoiding pressure while keeping his eyes down the field.
"That happens. A guy that can extend plays. It's hard to cover guys for a long time, so if you're continuing to have that as an issue, that can really stretch you in coverage,” Venables said. “So, this was obviously a great test for us that way. But yeah, Kellen did a great job of extending some plays and buying some time and then making some really good plays. There were times where we were in really good position coverage wise, and they made the play and we didn't. We lost a guy in coverage a time or two and he found him.
"The nine-yard touchdown we lost leverage on and he bought time. Then, we have another time early in the game where he dumped it underneath and gained 12 or 13 yards. That happened a couple of times where, again, we lost leverage in coverage. None of the big, long, explosive plays were those plays. Unfortunately, two of those touchdowns came when he just bought time and hit the deep one where we had a couple guys up, and he makes a great play. There was another time where we got the unblocked blitzer - we just lost leverage and he got outside of the blitzer and throws it across his body to make another great play."