Defense does the job, but Steele talks about four costly plays

by - Senior Writer -
Da'Quan Bowers was named player of the game for the defense.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – A mostly-stellar night for the Clemson defense ended when Dustin Hopkins’ 55-yard field goal as time expired gave the Seminoles a 16-13 victory over Clemson on Saturday night.

The Clemson defense yielded just one touchdown on the night, and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said after the game that it all came down to four plays – three which occurred on the Seminoles’ touchdown drive, and a fourth that allowed the Noles to set up the winning field goal.

“There is not a whole lot to say, really, from a defensive perspective,” Steele said. “I thought our guys played really hard and battled the whole game. It really came down to about four plays - an 11-yard run, a 14-yard run, and an 8-yard run on the drive for the touchdown. Basically what they did was start running the option and cracking it, cracking different guys. We got over and got that corrected and that showed up in the next drive.

“But the fourth play - the difference-maker - you have them 2nd-and-24 in two minutes, and we get a pass interference call and now it's 1st-and-10. I think that's where they hit the 19-yarder there. It came down to four plays and we didn't do a good job of handling those four plays."

The big second down play Steele is referring to occurred with just 21 seconds remaining on the game clock. Quarterback E.J. Manuel tried to find receiver Rodney Smith down the left sideline, and the officials ruled Coty Sensabaugh interfered with Smith on the play.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney immediately lobbied the official for an offensive pass interference call, or a no-call considering it didn’t look like the ball was catchable, but the call stood and the Seminoles were able to follow that up with a play that put them in field goal range.

Steele was asked if he had any thoughts on the pass interference call based on what he saw, and he shook his head and gave a terse yet telling answer.

"Oh, I've got some,” was all he said.

The good news for the Tiger defense is that they have now given up just five touchdowns in the past five games. The bad news is that two of those games have been losses.

"They've done a good job of keeping people out of the end zone but quite frankly you have to hold them to one less than what we get,” Steele said. “That's our job. That's what we have to do. That's just the way it is. On two of those occasions [two games] we didn't do that and that's disappointing."

Steele said the Tigers were expecting to see Manuel at quarterback in place of the injured Christian Ponder.

"Yeah, but I wasn't sure. Obviously there was some alteration in the game plan,” Steele said. “We kind of had two things dialed up. There wasn't a big body of work to study. Last year’s bowl game and the Florida game. It was about what we thought."

Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers continued his stellar junior season, leading the defense with nine tackles, one sack and an interception.

Bowers said following the game that this loss hurt even worse than losing to Georgia Tech in last years’ ACC Championship, and that the interception would have mattered more to him had the Tigers won.

“I would trade that interception for a W right now,” Bowers said. “Florida St. did some great things out there, and we just didn’t capitalize and they did. It’s hard to believe that we are going out there and putting up those kinds of numbers on the defense and we’re not capitalizing. But I would trade all of those numbers for a win.”

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