No. 2 Clemson has fixes to make on highly touted defense
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson safety K’von Wallace has a message for opponents who believe Clemson’s vaunted defense was exposed at Texas A&M.
“Keep trying us,” he said Monday.
Opponents likely will.
Yes, Wallace intercepted Kellen Mond’s pass on a two-point conversion in the final minute to preserve No. 2 Clemson’s 28-26 victory . But only moments before his heroics, it was a ball that bounced off of Wallace that turned into a Texas A&M’s final TD with 46 seconds left that set up the dramatic finish.
In all, Clemson gave up 430 passing yards by Mond, the most since Jameis Winston riddled the Tigers with 444 yards passing in a 51-14 home loss in 2013 when he was quarterbacking Florida State.
Wallace understands that the Tigers performance was unacceptable , especially given the much-hyped nature of Clemson’s defense and its four potential high-round draft picks across the defensive line.
The Tigers (2-0) will try and correct the issues before they take on Georgia Southern (2-0) at home Saturday.
“We can’t be the greatest defense in the country if we don’t go and critique ourselves, if we don’t watch ourselves, prepare better and watch what we did wrong and correct it,” Wallace said.
Wallace also understands that Mond and the Aggies have certainly given opponents a blueprint for how to attack the Tigers. But he welcomes any upcoming challenges.
“If anytime feels like they can expose us with the deep ball, they should go ahead and try it,” Wallace said. “We’ve to a lot to prove, a lot to improve on.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was generally pleased with his team’s effort and technique much of the game. The Tigers held Texas A&M to 97 yards passing to take a 14-3 lead at the half. After that, Venables said some of his defenders tried to too hard to make the big play instead of what they’d been schooled to do in practice.
Venables said his front four of ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant and tackles Christin Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence played strongly all game, knocking Mond to the ground 18 times in the victory.
Wilkins has already watched the game film several times since arriving back on campus and broken down his performance. There was no one area of Clemson’s defense to hang the second-half mistakes on.
“It’s a team effort,” he said. “We all could’ve done more.”
Venables is happy they did enough to escape Texas A&M with victory.
“There’s a lot to build on,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to do to be a really good defense.”
Few saw the defensive pendulum swing as much as Wallace, who figured into several of the game’s most crucial plays. He had his hands on several passes — “He dropped about four interceptions,” defensive end Ferrell joked — and was the defender who knocked the ball from Quartney Davis’ hands near the goal line. The ball went through the end zone for a touchback to end the A&M scoring chance with Clemson up 28-20 and just over two minutes left.
“Overall, it was good enough to win,” Venables said.
That game, but maybe not a national title.
But their belief in themselves has not waned.
Ferrell said the rest of the defense has strong confidence in Clemson’s secondary despite the passing yards allowed. The group, which includes Wallace and Tanner Muse at safety and cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Trayvon Mullen is growing in confidence and will improve as the season goes on, Ferrell said.
“This was good to see since it’s still young in the season,” Ferrell said. “We’re fighters.”
Venables expects a season of long-ball defense as more offensive coordinators dial up downfield passes to test whether the Tigers have shored up their cracks or can be taken advantage of deep.
“Putting stuff like (Texas A&M) on film, they’re going to want to check your oil,” he said. “Get ready.”