Steele collapses but defense stands tall

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele got so excited about safety DeAndre McDaniel’s second quarter interception that he passed out.

McDaniel snared N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson’s pass in the end zone, thwarting a Wolfpack scoring opportunity, and Steele could be seen running and leaping on the sideline as he cheered his troops on.

Next thing he knew, the whole stadium went from orange to black.

"I just hyperventilated,” Steele said following the game. “We had that interception in the end zone, I hyperventilated and everything went black and I went down."

The defense held N.C. State, averaging 35 points per game, to just 13 points. The Wolfpack also had season lows in passing yards, rushing yards, and it was their second-lowest total yardage output of the year.

"What they've done is that they've started to play consistently,” Steele said. “They've been relentless in the last four or five games in trying to keep them out of the end zone. We didn't have some pretty plays where we didn't exchange something correctly; the fullback had a couple of big catches out there in the flat and there were communication issues, and he scrambled once or twice, but at the end of the day they just fought, tried to dominate the line of scrimmage and keep them out of the end zone.

"We were effective against the run and we affected the quarterback. Sometimes we had him on the run and we sacked him four times. The defensive front really affected the game again. I think they've gotten in a mode recently where they've really affected the game."

The defensive front was led once again by junior Da’Quan Bowers.

Bowers had two more sacks, giving him 12 on the season, and he said the defense needs to learn to play with Saturday’s intensity in every game.

“I think we should play with that intensity every game,” he said. “There shouldn’t be ups and downs in different games. If our defense would play like that every game, we would always keep the offense in it. We just need to keep going, keep getting better and come in ready to go on Monday.

“I’m really proud of my guys. We came in with a chip on our shoulder that we need to step up defensively. I’m proud of the effort my guys gave throughout the game. Coach Swinney says it all the time: We’ve played a whole lot better and lost. It doesn’t matter what it takes, as long as we get the W. That’s all that matters.”

Bowers also said that he hopes his team can use the momentum from Saturday’s win to close out the season-ending stretch on a high note.

“This is going to create a lot of momentum for us,” he said. “We have to keep up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball, and the offense is going to get it together. We’re going to take it down to Tallahassee and try to get the victory.”

Cornerback Marcus Gilchrist said Saturday’s outcome shows what can happen when everyone does what they are supposed to do.

“Whenever everybody’s out there doing their job, games like this turn out to be successful,” Gilchrist said. “There are still some things we (the defense) can go out there and correct, we gave them a couple yards here and there, but overall, the team came together and we put all three phases together and were able to come out and win.”

The defense has now given up just 49 points in the last four games, and just 26 total points in the second half of the last six games, but Steele said those stats don’t matter unless his unit can do it consistently.

"Well, that's a great thing that's happened,” Steele said. “I think it's headed in the right direction, but it means nothing if we don't continue it. Just as soon as you cite something that's special, if it's not special anymore, everybody forgets it."

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