Good to great: Grumpy Venables recaps Clemson's win over BC

Good to great: Grumpy Venables recaps Clemson's win over BC

by - Staff Writer -

CHESTNUT HILL, MA – On paper, Clemson’s 56-10 victory over Boston College Friday night may have looked easy, but when Brent Venables looks back on the Tigers’ sixth win of the season he’s going to see a defense that went from good to great.

The Tigers held Boston College to just 251 total yards – 155 on the ground and 96 through the air – in a game where the Eagles dominated the time of possession at just over 38 minutes. But, there are four plays that Venables can point to when the season ends where his defense grew up and showed what they are made of.

In the first quarter, a muffed punt gave BC the ball on the nine-yard line and the defense held the Eagles to a field goal.

In the second quarter, Clemson’s defense held on the goal line, not once but twice, and Scott Pagano pushed the center into the quarterback causing a bad center-quarterback exchange and a turnover on downs.

Finally, right before the half, Ben Boulware stopped quarterback Patrick Towles with a jarring hit that knocked the ball loose to give the Tigers yet another turnover.

Venables told the media after the game that it’s those types of moments that the defense shows its heart and determination.

"Good leverage, good alignments, being ready to play. Trying to run it up the middle and not having any movement at the point of attack whatsoever,” Venables said. “Obviously, they had a couple of bad snaps there within all those plays. I think they might have had a new center, but they have a hard time snapping when you've got Pagano that's lined up right up over you. Or Dexter. The heart of your defense, you know, is those guys up the middle at D-line. For them to kind of make a statement in the game was huge. Those kind of moments are the moments you look back on your season as big moments for you as you try to get better and gain confidence and having been there and done that, that was a big turn of events there, too.”

It was pressure from the defensive line – Clelin Ferrell, Carlos Watkins, Pagano, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins – that really set the tone Friday night in Alumni Stadium.

"They do a good job up front blocking. And going in we knew we were going to have to beat guys one-on-one. A lot of times from a protection standpoint they had seven on four,” Venables said. “And that was a big emphasis for us to recognize protections. You've got to be able to play coverage. They max it up and run a lot of cross-country type routes, and if you bring people you've got less guys in coverage. So we really wanted to be able to play without having to pressure, particularly on early downs. So we put a lot of stress on those guys up front as a result. They do a lot of good things schematically.

“They're not just dropping back and running verticals on early downs. They do a good job of moving the pocket and sliding the protection, so we knew it was going to be tough particularly on early downs. And then they do a good job scheme-wise on third downs. I don't know what the number say, but I thought our guys did a really pretty good job. We let a couple of backs get out of the backfield there for some conversions on some man calls that we've got to be better on, but overall I thought it was really pretty good."

The hit by Boulware was initially ruled targeting, but overturned upon review, and Venables said it was really a turning point in the game.

"That was a huge play in the game. I was so thankful. I'm thinking a game ahead as much as that game and then getting the ball, all of it,” he said. “Other than getting the stop and holding them to a field goal on the first series and then after the turnover where we held them on downs there on the goal line, that was arguably as big of a play in the game. They were kind of moving it on us on our side of the field, and what a turn of events that was for us because we really didn't know how they would call it. That's our quarterback on defense. So it was good."

Despite the unusual circumstances with the short week, Venables was happy the defense fought through his grumpy attitude on its way to the best performance of the season.

"Probably. All things considered - on the road, well-coached team, always a tough game coming up here,” he said. “All of that being said, probably so. Coming off an exhausting game a week ago and on a short week, we all got home four o'clock plus last Sunday. It wasn't an easy week. Ask our guys, I was tired and grumpy the whole week. Man, I was out of whack. But real proud of our guys, though."

Venables even took it a step further and said he enjoyed seeing his guys have fun and simply enjoy playing the game.

"Really proud of our guys. I thought it was a really good four quarters of football. Played a lot of guys. Had a great mentality right away,” he said. “Thought we really kind of set the tempo to hold them to a field goal there after that first turnover. And then goal-line series there - those were probably my two favorite series of the game. That's what you want to be about. You want to have your back against the wall and you want to see your guys respond. Really pleased with all the young guys that got in and played well, all the way to the end.

“Going on the road is hard, and coming on a short week against a team that if they're something they're tough. Really complemented each other well on both sides of the ball and I think our guys really had fun. They're working extremely hard and we demand a lot and to see them enjoy the opportunity to go out and play a game was fun to watch. BC had some injuries on offense in particular and it got them out of rhythm and things got away. But compliments to our guys having a great mindset in coming on the road and playing with great focus, energy and toughness, all of that."

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