Venables sees progress after defense shuts down UVa

by - Senior Writer -
Korrin Wiggins is one of several freshmen playing well on defense (Photo: Geoff Burke)
Korrin Wiggins is one of several freshmen playing well on defense (Photo: Geoff Burke)

Nine days ago in College Park, defensive coordinator Brent Venables Brent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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walked out of the visiting locker room at Maryland and he was visibly frustrated and upset with his defense.

Clemson’s defenders responded after giving up an early long scoring play to the Maryland offense, shutting down any attempt at offensive continuity by the Terrapins by shutting down drive after drive, only to see that superlative effort by spoiled by two late touchdowns that made the 40-27 final score closer than it really was.

This past Saturday in Charlottesville, Venables walked out of a loud and raucous Tiger locker room with more of a smile on his face, nodding his head to the beat of the music that was blaring out of the loudspeakers, happier than he was a week earlier in Maryland.

Against the Wahoos of Virginia Saturday, the defense once again gave up an early scoring drive, but held the Virginia offense to just three points the rest of the way, forced three turnovers and gave up just 277 yards of total offense. The defense also held Virginia to just six conversions in 22 third down attempts, and forced a whopping 10 3-and-outs.

Venables told the media after the game that he was pleased to see his defense respond after Virginia’s early touchdown drive.

“I like [them] responding and them playing consistently at a good level for three and a half quarters-plus, and we continue to get stops, to get off the field and stay engaged in the game, play intense for 60 minutes,” Venables said. “That was important. If you’re going to be an elite team, if you’re a really good team, if you’re a really good player, if you’re a good unit, you keep getting better as the year goes on.”

He then said that what he was happy to see his defense put in a better than he saw the previous week.

“Today, I saw us make progress,” he said. “There is nothing more pleasing, as a coach, than seeing your guys get a little bit better, because that’s what the good teams do. Nothing is more displeasing than to see guys regress. So, knock on wood, haven’t seen that.”

The 59-10 win in Scott Stadium was also Clemson’s eighth consecutive win on the road – dating back to the loss at Florida St. last September – the longest streak since Clemson won nine consecutive games on opponent’s turf from 1978-79.

“Just love coming on the road with a road dog kind of mentality, having a little edge to you, having to create your own energy and take any kind of life out of the crowd that might be there,” Venables said. “That’s not easy to do. That’s very under-valued, to be able to come onto the road and play well, so it’s pleasing.”

Part of the reason that Venables’ defense has been playing has been the play of several younger players, including freshman safety Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
Fr. Safety
#20 6-4, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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. Kearse intercepted a David Watford pass in the second quarter Saturday, and his 37-yard return set up Clemson’s third touchdown. One drive later, Kearse forced a fumble that set up Clemson’s fourth touchdown, and he said after the game that the interception fired him up.

“After I got the interception, everybody got riled up and I thought, ‘I like this feeling. Let me see if I can go out there and make another play,’” Kearse told the media following the game. “I went out there trying to get another interception and wound up getting a forced fumble. I was out there doing what I was supposed to do, in my gap, taking care of my responsibilities and the play just came right to me.”

Kearse said that it was important for the defense to put together a solid 60 minutes, not just 52.

“We just felt like we let ourselves down even letting them get on the scoreboard,” Kearse said. “We went out there thinking shutout and we gave them a touchdown. We settled down and got it together and decided that they weren’t getting in the endzone anymore.”

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