Crawford's touchdown sparks defense

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson’s defense has now scored points in three straight home games, with defensive end Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
So. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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getting his first collegiate touchdown Saturday when he forced a fumble by Maryland quarterback Shawn Petty, picked up the football and rumbled 16 yards for the score.

The Tigers scored a safety two games ago against Georgia Tech, and Jonathan MeeksJonathan Meeks
Sr. Safety
#5 6-1, 210
Rock Hill, SC

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returned an interception for a touchdown against Virginia Tech. Crawford made it three straight with his recovery and score, and defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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said that turnover and score set the tempo for his defense.

“I think it was a tempo setter,” Venables said. “They [Maryland] have some limitations and some things that they are going through, but all of that aside, entire aside our positioning, physicality, consistency that we play with, focus, intensity that we brought out there. We talked all week about focusing on us and controlling what we can and I think that was a sign of maturation and good leadership and being hungry and not satisfied.”

According to Venables, scoring points on defense is just extra incentive, but doesn’t just happen by chance.

“That’s icing on the cake,” Venables said. “I’m happy for those guys. Hopefully that lends credibility to doing all of the little things right. I don’t think those things happen by chance. I think they are by product of focus, assuredness, technique, aggression, and doing their job. “

The defensive ends have been one of the most improved groups, and Venables said that their stats are indicative of the progress they are making with their fundamentals.

“[Defensive ends coach Hobby] Marion has done a great job with all of those ends,” Venables said. “They are being more productive and disruptive, setting the edge of the defense, playing with good technique and pad level, understand their responsibility, having good eyes. Making the plays and showing up on the stat sheets is indicative of improvement of all those things. They have worked incredibly hard. They are out there early at practice every day working on the little things and understanding football. Marion has done a great job getting that in tune to all of the ends.”

The Tigers continued a trend of playing better each week, giving up just 180 total yards against short-handed Maryland. Venables knew when he arrived at Clemson, that he had the players capable of playing very good defense, and that it was just a matter of doing the little things right.

“I told them all along that we’ve got quality players and have good enough players to play good defense here if we understand what we are supposed to do and what that entails, just play with good fundamentals, know where to get lined up, play with a sense of urgency, play with toughness,” Venables said. “We just have to stress that nobody has to be superman out there. It’s a workman-like effort out there and collectively we need to be 11 guys as a whole needs to be really solid and be consistent. Our guys have bought in.

“There are a lot of things that go into it. I just think we are playing consistently, guys understand their job, and we are playing with discipline, the discipline of fundamentals, the discipline of gap integrity, and the discipline of eye control and just doing their job. It’s a very difficult thing to do day in and day out and do it with any consistency so when you are beating yourself on early downs and putting yourself behind the chains, nothing works, but when you do the little things the right way. I think our guys trust each other and trust the system and have just settled down are focused.“

Venables credits the scout team for the progress his starters have made.

“We’ve got a great scout team,” Venables said. “They do a great job - not a good job - a great job that is as good as I’ve been around and so it’s a great challenge. They come to practice and show emotion. Outside of Monday we go live on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our guys are juiced up. They’re juiced up. They make a play here and there and our guys take it the right way. Those are just by products of doing the little things better.”

The Tigers have suffered multiple injuries of the defensive side of the ball, and Venables said that getting backups game reps helps to create much-needed depth.

“Every week we have [gotten backups reps],” Venables said. “It’s been crazy. I’ve played more back-ups this season than I have in my entire career combined. I played nine linebackers today. I played nine last week. I’ve never played nine in a season, let alone one game. Sometimes I just want to keep my guys in because it’s working and I don’t want to jack it up. Twos and threes usually play like twos and threes. Sometimes after a solid performance it’s hard to watch. Our guys haven’t played a lot, but when they get in, they play pretty good. It’s a lesson learned for me. It creates depth. These guys are ready play. They are confident.”

Despite not being tested for four quarter Saturday, Venables said his defense remembers last year’s game at N.C. State and will be prepared for the challenge the Wolfpack presents.

“It doesn’t hurt us. We’ve got a lot to get better at still,” Venables said. “Some of those issues weren’t necessarily addressed today, but they’re going to be here. They’ve just got to focus on themselves and have a great understanding. They know that they [N.C. State] got after us last year and went up and down the field and are very, very quality from a personnel standpoint. They have a veteran team and a veteran offensive line. I don’t know what their situation is today, but they are playing for the bowl pecking order and pride. They are a good team and we need to have a good week of practice and preparation to have a chance to defend them and compete with them the right way.”

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