Venables prepares for Ball St. second year in a row

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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found himself feeling a little strange in the few short hours leading up to Saturday’s kickoff against Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Venables told the media Tuesday as part of his weekly press conference that he felt, well, lonely.

“I told coach Swinney before the game, I felt alone,” Venables said. “It was a weird feeling. I just felt alone. I hadn't been in that situation before, although I was very familiar with everybody. It was a different kind of feeling. It was great to see the team rally together and fight through some adverse conditions. It was neat having that be the first game here at Clemson. I really appreciated our staff and the maturity our players showed in that game."

Venables said that at his previous stops – Kansas St. and Oklahoma – he had coaches he had worked with before and players he had recruited, leading to a sense of comfort as a team prepares for a game. Saturday, the only familiarity he felt was when he chatted with former assistant Willie Martinez – now an assistant coach at Auburn – on the field before the game.

Venables characterized it as having a “posse” around you that can help calm the nerves in those anxious moments. However, once the game started, that feeling of isolation went away.

“Yes. Absolutely. Once the game starts, everything is faceless,” he said. “What's the personnel, what's the down and distance?”

Venables said he felt even better when he was able to celebrate a Clemson win.

“To have our team kind of rally together, fight through some real adverse conditions and beat a good team on that stage, it was pretty neat, it being our first game here at Clemson,” Venables said. “I liked how they handled the adversity of a tight game, and how they responded. They came up with some big stops, and stuck together as a football team.”

This week, Clemson faces Ball St. and the diverse offense of head coach Pete Lembo, but Venables said there is no way he is going to let his team become overconfident. Venables was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma last season when the Sooners played against the Cardinals in Norman. Oklahoma walked away with a 62-6 win as Ball St. had just 10 first downs, only 95 yards through the air and 114 on the ground. Oklahoma also forced four turnovers.

To Venables, however, the Cardinals are the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I'm that guy. I'm the proverbial Lou Holtz,” he said. “We're getting ready to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. That validates it and gives it an argument with your players. They're aware of it. We watched the UTEP - Oklahoma game on the bus coming back. There's so much exposure to it. And Ball State is really good on offense. They're very good; they're very precise and experienced. They're incredibly well-coached. We've watched a lot of Elon tape, which is where the coaching staff came from. You can tell it's a really well-coached team. This will be their Super Bowl. These boys better get ready to strap it on. Ball State opened the game at Oklahoma last year, go for an onside kick and they got it. They'll have that go-for-broke attitude. If we don't match that intensity and focus, we'll get embarrassed."

Venables said that last week was all about adjustments, but he expects another set of challenges this week.

“I think every week presents a different challenge,” he said. “I don't think it's easier. Last week was the unknown. It felt like we had to go in and make adjustments. I felt like we constantly had to make adjustments. That was last week. This week is another set of new challenges, whether you're fighting the mental aspect or the physical aspect. There is always a storyline behind it to me."

He also said that Clemson has plenty to work on before Saturday.

"We have to get better across the board,” he said. “I'm running out of fingers and toes of things we have to get better at. That's typical after your first game. You always want and expect more. I believe we'll get that. We had a fabulous practice yesterday. We worked on the things we can control. You have to gain experience by playing. From a fundamental technique, understanding what we're doing, the discipline that it takes for 60 minutes to stop people. It's hard to simulate that in practice."

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