Some brights spot for Clemson defense against USC


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Middle linebacker Corico Hawkins was one of two Clemson defensive players who had a career night in Saturday’s loss to South Carolina, finishing with a career-high 13 tackles, including 1 ½ for loss. His 13 tackles were the high for a Clemson defensive player on the season.

Joining him was junior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson with a career-high 2 ½ tackles for loss, and he blocked a South Carolina extra point attempt in the first quarter as he had one of the best all-around games of his career.

The Clemson defensive group also accomplished one of its goals, stopping South Carolina freshman running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore gained just 48 yards on 23 carries for a 2.1 yard per carry average. Quarterback Stephen Garcia wasn’t exceptional either, completing just 14-of-40 passes for 227 yards, but two his completions went for touchdowns.

Receiver Alshon Jeffery, however, caught five passes for 141 yards and a 37-yard touchdown reception, and the Gamecocks used an interception return for a touchdown and a special teams miscue by the Tigers for 14 of their 29 points.

Hawkins told reporters following the game that the numbers, on both sides, obviously don’t tell the whole story.

“Any time you hold a really good back to that kind of yardage, you would expect the scoreboard to be different” Hawkins. “We had a bad snap on special teams, and then there was the interception that was returned for a touchdown, and that is six quick points. The defense can't do anything about that. But whatever bowl we go to, we are going to play Clemson defense and do what we have to do, regardless.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele told reporters in the hallway outside of the Clemson locker room that he thinks his defense could have done even more in the game.

"Obviously we didn't do what we had to do defensively to give ourselves a chance to win,” Steele said. “We forced three field goals, but I'm disappointed they got a quick score inside of the ten. I wish we could have held them to a field goal. And we busted a coverage on the 37-yard pass. There are a lot of things we can do better. Defensively, we're frustrated we didn't do better.


"I think we did accomplish some things defensively. We were somewhat effective in the run game in holding a very good rushing team back, a team that has been effective all year rushing the ball. Some guys fought hard. Brandon [Thompson] and Jarvis [Jenkins] and that front four again played well. There were a lot of lessons in this game for our defense. We have to do better."

Junior defensive end Da’Quan Bowers entered the game needing one sack to break the Clemson single-season record, but was held without a sack for the first time in nine games. He was credited with three tackles, a share of a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and he gave credit to the Gamecocks for shutting him out in the sack column.

“They executed when they needed to and got the job done,” Bowers said. “I can't take anything away from those guys. They played a great game, and I wish them luck in their next game in the SEC championship.”

Bowers remains first in the nation in sacks, with 15.5 through games of November 27th. He has three more sacks than any other player in the nation. He was credited with one tackle for loss against South Carolina and now has 25 for the season, just two off the Clemson season record for a defensive lineman. The overall record is 35 by Keith Adams in 1999. He needs one sack to break Adams’ season sack record (16 in 1999).

Steele defended the play of the Lombardi Award candidate, and said that were more ways to get pressure on the quarterback than just sacks.

"We got some pressure. The guy was less than 50-percent,” Steele said. “So there was pressure. But people evaluate pressure sometimes as sacks and sacks are good, but there are other ways to affect the quarterback. You can affect him with coverage-disguise and coverage and get him out of rhythm and out of the pocket.

“Da'Quan played very good. He pressured the quarterback. He pressured the quarterback on several occasions very effectively. Just because he's the nation's sack leader and didn't get a sack doesn't mean he had a bad game. They did double and chip some on him, but we moved him around, too."

Steele’s defense still remains near the top in several statistical categories.

The Tigers remain 9th in the nation in scoring defense through games of November 27 with a 17.4 average. Clemson is also seventh in fewest touchdowns allowed, 12th in tackles for loss per game, 22nd in total defense and 24th in pass efficiency defense.

Clemson is third in the ACC in pass defense and fourth in rushing defense, leading to a third place ranking in total defense. Clemson is the only ACC team in the top five in both rushing defense and pass defense.

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