CLEMSON --- It had been four days since head coach Tommy Bowden called his unit out. Bowden wanted to see the Clemson defense lay the wood sort of speak. He wanted to see more impact hits and more guys flying to the football than what he saw in the first two games of the season.
With Clemson trailing Miami by three points late and needing the football back, defensive tackle Charles Bennett met his coach’s expectations. With the Death Valley crowd screaming at an all-time pitch and Miami facing a third down and six at its own 24, Bennett bowled over right tackle Rashad Butler, before clothes-lining quarterback Kyle Wright for a 9-yard loss.
“That was just a sample of what I and what we can do as a defense,” said Bennett.
The play allowed Clemson’s offense to get the ball back, where they tied the game with a 27-yard Jad Dean field goal to force overtime. Though Miami ended up winning the contest in triple overtime, Bennett said the defense proved it can be physical.
“We needed to show people that hey we can be physical too,” he said.
The defense, which held Miami to 264 total yards through regulation, will get that chance again this week, when perhaps the most physical offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference visits Death Valley this Saturday. Boston College’s offensive line stands at 6-foot-6, 316-pounds and has a reputation for just constantly pounding its opponents with long sustained drives, before wearing them out in the fourth quarter.
“They are just so big at the line,” said Clemson safety Jamaal Fudge. “But they’re quick too, and I think that’s where they fool people. They’re going to be the most physical team we have faced, but they have speed at the skill positions.
“When you watch the tempo of their guys, they’re quick.”
Despite the quick athletes the Eagles will put out on the wings, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning knows where the game is going to be won or lost, and that’s up front where his unit is considerably undersized and outmatched.
“They probably have as good of a line physically, size wise, dominating and power wise than anybody we will play, period,” he said. “Look in their media guide and see how many offensive lineman have gone on to the NFL. They have been able to foster that and I bet they have two or three on this offensive line that will be playing on Sundays.”
Clemson’s defensive line, which is known more for its speed than its power, averages 6-foot-4, 264 pounds across. Boston College worries Bowden so much, he even thought about moving Chris McDuffie (6-foot-5, 315) back to defense for this one game to counter the Eagles overwhelming size.
“Major concerns would be their ability to run the ball because of their size and keeping the ball for a long period of time, giving us limited possessions,” Bowden said.
The coaching staff eventually decided not to move McDuffie in fear that it could mess things up more than it could help so that leaves Koenning with a small defensive front he must scheme around Boston College’s size.
“We are going to have to get the most out of all of our guys,” said Koenning. “Jock McKissic is going to have to continue to play better, (Cory) Groover is going to have to continue to play better, Charles, (Phillip) Merling and all those guys.
“This is going to be a big challenge for them.”
Against Florida State last week, the Eagles ran 54 plays in the first half alone, the second best one half total under coach Tom O’Brien.
“Anytime you play a wishbone team you can anticipate about nine possessions per game,” said Bowden. “This is not a wishbone (team), but it is a similar philosophy where you keep the other team off and your team on the field by run and run play action pass.
“They recruit that philosophy with 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-7 offensive lineman.”
Bennett said he doesn’t know about the rest of the defense, but he is looking forward to another challenge. And like last week, he knows the defense will rise to the challenge.
“They’re big and they are physical,” said the senior defensive tackle about Boston College. “They just sit up there and get strong. It will be tough, but I think we will be OK.”