Defense Turns Attention to TCU after Dominating Performance


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Ricky Sapp forces the fumble as he sacks the Boston College QB.
Ricky Sapp forces the fumble as he sacks the Boston College QB.

CLEMSON -- The Clemson Tiger defensive unit spent last week in practice talking about playing a complete game after coming out sluggish in the first quarter at Georgia Tech before playing three strong quarters to end the game.

The talking worked.

“We expect to dominate every time we hit the field,” said defensive end DaQuan Bowers. “This week we got in our basic defenses, and we were able to take care of business. We wanted to work toward a complete game and take care of B.C. It’s a boost of confidence for us. Now we’ve got to go out and focus on TCU.”

On Saturday, the Tiger’s defense came out with a purpose that showed throughout the lopsided contest, allowing the Boston College Eagles only 55 yards total offense – 25 rushing and 29 passing – in the 25-7 win over their ACC Atlantic Division rivals. It was the second best total defensive figure in an ACC game ever for the Tigers and ranks sixth on the team’s all-time list for fewest total offensive yards in a game by an opponent.

“Hats off to the defense,” said Coach Dabo Swinney in the post game press conference. “I’m definitely proud of the defensive coaches for preparing these men for today.”

The defense’s preparations during the week turned into near perfect execution Saturday as the defensive front dominated Boston College the entire game.

“Any time you can hold a team to 55 yards and have 13 three and outs obviously you’re doing something right, but the something right is we interchanged players the whole game,” said Kevin Steele, Clemson defensive coordinator. “There were several times that we put what we call the ‘swarm,’ which is the backup group out there as a wholesale change. Those guys they bought into the system and trust me, make no mistake about it, X and Os don’t work. Players win games. That was a great example of players playing the way they’re supposed to play with the focus they’re supposed to play with.”

The game was also the first time Coach Steele was able to showcase the Tiger’s base defense this season. Against Middle Tennessee the defense faced a spread offense and against Georgia Tech they faced an option attack.

“We’ve played three different styles of defense this season, and it has proven to be a great combination,” Swinney said.

He said the most important thing he saw from the defense was “we tackled better and we shut down the run, which is what you’ve got to do against any opponent.”

It was obvious watching Boston College try to run the ball. The Eagles running back tandem of Montel Harris and Josh Haden gained just 12 net yards and the offensive line allowed four sacks and nine tackles for losses.

“We’ve got some very talented young men up there,” Steele said. “We got four sacks and really should have had two more, possible three. I was really more encouraged about the run game more than anything else. To go out there and have 30 yards rushing on 29 carries my hat is off to the defensive front because that’s a special group of guys.”

The defensive front’s dominance starts with defensive ends Bowers and Ricky Sapp. Both had six tackles and Sapp had two sacks, a forced a fumble and tallied two quarterback hurries in the game.

“I came out and made some plays and helped my team out as much as I could,” Sapp said. “We came out focused. We had a great week of practice. Talked about playing a complete game and came out and played four quarters. We came out and put it to them today.”

Sapp agreed with Coach Steele’s assessment of the backups’ play on defense and the boost it gave the team.

There’s not much drop off when the second team defense comes into the game, he said.

“That’s what makes us this year,” Sapp said. “We’ve got backups that can really start. Having them it makes everybody’s job easier. We’re going to keep rolling. I guess practice really does payoff.”

A defensive wrinkle added to the scheme against the Eagles was called the “Bamberg” play after Sapp’s and his running mate Bowers hometown of Bamberg, S.C. The play involves lining one or both Sapp and Bowers in a linebacker position.

“It worked pretty good the two times we did it,” Bowers said. “The defense we run is built for playmakers. He (Coach Steele) puts us in schemes that worked pretty well.”

The Tiger’s defense now turns its attention toward the TCU Hornfrogs, who come to Death Valley with a national ranking for a game Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

“We’ve got a moto,” Coach Steele said. “We don’t ever look at the scoreboard, we don’t care what the score is, we don’t care what the down and distance is, we don’t care where we’re playing, who we’re playing, what venue we’re playing in, how many people are there. It’s the next play. Play the next play, play the next play. We preach that. They’re buying into it.”

The key, Steele said, is putting the Boston College game behind them.

“You got to go back and prove it again,” he said.

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