CLEMSON — After getting torched in their final home game of the 2018 season by the South Carolina Gamecocks to the tune of 35 points and more than 500 yards passing, the No. 2 Clemson Tigers exercised their demons in a 42-10 dominating performance over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the ACC Championship.
For defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the message that led to the defensive performance in the ACC title game -- which saw Clemson allow only 200 yards of total offense, including only 8 yards passing — was that the players needed to get back to doing the “little things well.”
“Just do the little things well. Be precise, be physical. Just have a little more focus and attention to detail,” Venables said. “Just very simple and again, have the cohesion that it takes to operate 11 guys on the same page. Obviously they did that (in the championship game).”
The Tigers knew entering the ACC Championship that the Panthers were going to try to establish the running game and not rely on their quarterback. But when they did decide to throw the ball, it worked out in the Tigers’ favor.
Unlike in the South Carolina game, which saw the defense out of position and trying to do too much, the Tigers made the big plays when the opportunity presented itself — namely, cornerback A.J. Terrell’s interception with 29 seconds remaining in the first half that set up a third one-play scoring drive of the game.
“It was huge because I felt like we really had a chance to make it really hard on them coming into the second half prior to that happening, but we needed to make some more plays, we needed something to happen,” Venables said.
Now, as the Tigers start to think about their matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 (4 p.m., ESPN), the defenders are feeling much better about their play.
“Just go right down the list, check, check, check,” Venables said. “This is a good elixir for last week. But obviously there’s some fundamental things, some technical things that we’ll go back and go to work on.”
Ferrell wins Hendricks Award
The recipient of the 2018 Ted Hendricks Award is Clelin Ferrell of Clemson. The award is presented each year to the top defensive end in the nation.