Steele, defense come up big in ACC Championship

by - Senior Writer -

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin SteeleKevin Steele
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
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and the defense found the right time to turn a strong defensive performance.

Steele’s defense had fallen to 59th in the nation in total defense in recent weeks, and Steele has been the subject of much discussion by fans who wonder if he had forgotten how to coach.

Steele’s defense responded by holding No. 5 Virginia Tech to just 330 total yards, but only 56 yards on the ground, but Steele said he didn’t want to focus on the negativity of recent weeks and instead wanted to focus on Clemson’s 38-10 win.

“I don’t even want to talk about that [the negativity],” Steele said. “You don’t even want to get me started. When you are dealing with 18-to-24 year olds, direct that stuff somewhere else. We are ACC champs and headed to the Orange Bowl. We won the conference for the first time in 20 years. We are going to the Orange Bowl for the first time in 30 years. I better just stop right there.”

The defense held Logan Thomas to 22-of-44 passing through the air, he gained just 28 yards on 12 carries on the ground and they held ACC Player of the Year David Wilson to just 32 yards on 11 carries. Steele said that stopping the run was the key.

“I think the whole synopsis was that we were very effective stopping the run,” Steele said. “I’m not sure what the yards per carry was [1.9 YPC], but we were very effective. I thought we affected the quarterback except going into the last two drives when we were playing off of him a little bit, trying to let them burn the clock if they could. I thought we were very effective in executing the game plan.”

Steele said the Tigers switched up the defense in order to confuse Thomas.

“We weren’t in press man a lot. We played press coverage,” he said. “We were in quarters a lot. We press in quarters. But when we were in man, the touchdown pass, the interference call that Coty [Sensabaugh] had and the interference that they had on [Bashaud] Breeland were in press man. We are a press team. They live on an island and we trust them.”

Junior safety Rashard HallRashard Hall
Gr. Safety
#31 6-1, 210
St. Augustine, FL

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said it was good to see the defense finally play as a cohesive unit.

“Your technique and just doing what you’re supposed to do had a lot to do with it,” Hall said. “The biggest thing was playing for your brother next to you and bleeding for him because you don’t want to let your teammate and your brother down. That’s the main thing that happened tonight.”

Head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said the key to the defense was “accountability.”

“Accountability. Simple as that,” Swinney said. “These guys can tell you, we had a nice little meeting on Monday, I probably should have done it three weeks ago because we really don't have an ability problem, we have a little bit of an accountability problem and responsibility and dependability. So it was a challenging week.

“Just like you discipline your children, sometimes you need a little tough love, but you've got to respond. And they responded the right way. We were accountable. We played our gaps. We had guys lined up where they were supposed to. They took ownership in the plan. We tackled well. We created pressure, and we just said we're going to stop the run tonight, and I'm just really proud of them.”

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