CLEMSON—How does a Clemson defense that has held each of its first two opponents (Kent State and Auburn) to a combined 237 yards improve heading into week three?
The answer is easy: They just start over.
“We're just trying to get better every week,” defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. “We've got to start over just like a new season. We've got a new Monday that we're going to take advantage of, a new Tuesday. Each day we're just preparing, preparation, we do the same routine every week to reset our minds on a new opponent."
The “new opponent” will take the form of the No. 14 Louisville Cardinals — led by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. While many around the country are naming Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield as the Heisman frontrunner, all Jackson has done in his first two games is pick up where he left off last season.
“It is just hard to have answers. You do a great job in coverage and you got him stopped as far as on paper, but he just most of the time is better than your guy that is trying to tackle him,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Once he gets out into space, he has the speed to break it. He is a huge challenge and will be for everybody he plays, there is no question about it. We look forward to competing against him. We know what we are in for. He is going to make his plays, so we just have to make a few more than they do.”
Through the first two games, Jackson ranks first in the FBS in total offense (505.0 yard per game), fifth in passing offense (385.0 yards per game), 24th in rushing offense (119.5 yards per game) — while accounting for eight touchdowns.
While the celebration of Saturday night’s victory over No. 13 Auburn was still fresh in their minds, for Lawrence there is an understanding that if the defense wants to be successful in the first road test of the season, it will be because of extra work they have put in.
“Best is the standard. ... We pushing each other every day. We're getting extra work after practice, before practice sometimes,” Lawrence said. “We just all trying to get better. We know that once the starters come out, there should not be a drop-off because we're all working the same. We're all working hard."
While Jackson has started off the season much like he did last year, putting up video game-type numbers, he has yet to face a defense — and defensive line — with the talent that he will face Saturday night.
For Lawrence, that is the thing he is most looking forward to.
"We love that role. We accept it,” Lawrence said. “We know that it all starts with us (the defensive line). We're the closest to the ball, and that's where the action is going to happen first.”