Venables on defensive woes: "Guys will come out swinging"


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Ben Boulware makes an early tackle Saturday
Ben Boulware makes an early tackle Saturday

CLEMSON – The numbers for the defense aren’t pretty. Clemson gave up 464 total yards to Pitt Saturday, 156 on the ground and 308 through the air. Twenty-three first downs in 71 plays. Forty-three points. Over six yards per play and four scores in four red zone possessions.

It was an ugly defensive performance, perhaps the ugliest for a Clemson defense since the loss to Florida St. in 2013. But Florida St. went on to win the National Championship, while Pitt will be lucky to win a lower tier bowl game.

Venables said the loss hurts, but he thinks his players will come out swinging next week.

“It's tough. We've invested a lot. We've been on the right side of it all year, and this one hurts. Our guys have had a great week of practice,” Venables said after the game. “They played their guts out tonight, and we didn't do a good enough job of putting them in a position to get a hold of that game and get control of it. We were on the wrong side of it all night. Hats off to Pitt. They came in here, and they earned it. I know what our guys are made of. We've got great character and toughness. Guys will come out swinging with the kind of focus that we need to. We are still in control of our destiny in regards to having an opportunity to play for an ACC Championship. This one hurts, there's no question about it. If you work and invest and care for one another like we do, obviously, it's a tough one to take.”

Venables sad the shovel play was particularly effective for Pitt.

“The shovel play was the play that allowed them to have balance. They hit the wheel route; they hit a throwback. We just let guys slink in behind us to the tight end,” he said. “They just had a second too long, and we were hitting him as he threw it and they were making good plays on the ball. The shovel play is something that we worked a lot, but obviously not enough. We didn't play that very well, and kind of got buttoned up late in the second half - the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late.”

Pitt took over at their own 35 after a failed fourth down conversion with a minute to play, and Venables said he was all for the Tigers going for it.

“I was absolutely all for it,” he said. “Our job is to stop them and obviously we didn't. It's disappointing to be out there and not make a stop when you needed to.”

In the end, it wasn’t Clemson’s night.

“We're very consistent in our approach and how we prepare and how we get ready for a game. We talk about adversity a lot. You've prepped them for this well before this happened,” he said. “They're going to feed off of us, but we've got great leadership. We've got strong character guys and confident guys, too. This just wasn't our night. Pitt made all of the plays when they had to, and we couldn't get control of the game when we had opportunities to.”

Venables admitted that Pitt did some things the Tigers hadn’t seen on film, but he said there are no excuses after losses.

“That's week to week, and it's always like that,” he said. “The presentation might be a little different. Everybody does some different stuff week to week. That's no excuse. It still comes down to getting off blocks and playing assignment, disciplined, physical football and tackling and staying on top of people and playing with good technique and putting them in good position as well.”

Worst defensive performance in a while? Yes, but he thinks his players will respond.

“I think the stats and the numbers would say so (that it was the worst defensive performance). We didn't coach them well,” Venables said. “Go to the next game. Our guys will be confident, so we just have to go to the next game. Learn from the mistakes, correct the mistakes and go to the next one.”

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