Defense dominant, Bowers closes in on sack record

by - Senior Writer -

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – In typical fashion, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was happy with his defense –until Wake Forest scored a late touchdown on the Tiger reserves.

The Tigers gave up just 205 yards to the Demon Deacons, but Wake Forest had a hard time moving the ball against the Tiger regulars. The touchdown drive against the backups covered 79 yards.

"Well, I was happy with what we did the first 3 ½ quarters,” Steele said. “The guys went out there and played to our standard of excellence, which is to be a dominating defense. Before it showed up on the field, six or seven weeks ago it had been building. They played really hard today and were very effective and saw a lot of stuff - reverses and reverse throwbacks. It was a playbook to say the least. They were effective.”

Clemson held Wake Forest to just 205 yards of total offense, including just 97 in the first three quarters. That is the best total defense performance by the Tigers this season and best since Coastal Carolina had just 170 yards in 2009.

The defense also had its sixth straight game of allowing exactly one touchdown. This is the second longest streak of allowing one touchdown or less in Clemson history. The 1981 National Championship team holds the record with seven. They did it in the first seven games that year and in 10 of the 12 games that season.

Steele, however, was more interested in talking about the touchdown given up by the reserves.

"I'm frustrated as heck that it's our standard and then this [the TD] because we put those young guys in there at the end and they didn't play to our standard,” Steele said. “They'll learn from it and we'll get them to play to our standard, but that was not acceptable."

The defensive line once again set the tone, led by junior defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who had two more sacks and is now just one-half sack shy of the Clemson single season record of 16, set by Keith Adams in 1999.

Steele said the line is playing at a high level right now.

"I think I've said it before, it’s not just those four guys. It's whoever is out there,” Steele said. “They have gotten to where they kind of set the tempo for us. It makes it easy to call a game and it makes it easier to play behind them. They have set a high standard. They're a very relentless group."

Bowers’ sacks totaled 24 yards lost, and he now has a sack in nine straight games.

"Today was probably the first time that I thought to myself that I need to get back to the quarterback," Bowers said. "Usually I don't think about it, but I knew that I was very close today. And I wanted to get as close as I could to breaking the record at home."

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