CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Venables prepares for even more Georgia Tech runs
CLEMSON — Since the arrival of Brent Venables following the 2011 season, Clemson has stymied the vaunted Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket offensive attack.
Following a two-year adjustment period, which saw the Yellow Jackets score 31 points in 2012 and 2013, the Tigers’ defense has seemingly figured out the Yellow Jacket triple-option, holding the Yellow Jackets to an average of 19.6 points.
This season, the Tigers will face a different type of Georgia Tech offense. As strange as it may sound, this year’s Yellow Jacket offensive unit is running the ball more than they have in the past.
“I think they’re probably running it a little bit more than they have in the past, and obviously have been a run-heavy team,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “They are closer to 90-10 than they are to 80-20. I think they would like to be around 80-20. But I think the B-back has been terrific for them all year, excellent player and really kind of makes them go.
“The quarterback makes really good decisions, shows good instincts in his decision making and his patience and poise is really outstanding for a young player. The line’s more mature, the receivers are more mature and it’s been a group that has grown up in the system the last few years.”
In 2015, the Tigers held Georgia Tech to only 71 yards rushing on 42 attempts, an average of 1.7 yards per attempt. And in the 2016 season, the Tigers held the Yellow Jacket offense to 95 yards rushing on 38 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per attempt, while holding Tech to the lowest total yardage in head Coach Paul Johnson’s tenure.
Over the last two seasons, Georgia Tech has averaged 272.5 rushing yards per game and 5.65 yards per rush when not playing the Tigers. Even with the success that Clemson had against the Yellow Jackets, Venables was quick to point out it is as much about the matchups on the field as the schemes developed by the coaching staffs.
“You just kind of go from one year to the next and every year’s different. Their players are different and our players are different — I think that has a big part of it too,” Venables said. “I think some years we’ve had the advantage at certain positions from a matchup standpoint and that always makes a big difference too. It’s not always your schemes. I think schemes are a starting point, but ultimately players have to go out and execute.”
With Georgia Tech’s offense running the ball at a level unlike any other team in the country and with the Clemson offense still searching for its big-play capability to return, one of the biggest factors for the Tiger success Saturday night will be the ability to get off the field on third down.
Through the first six games of the season, Georgia Tech ranks fifth nationally in third-down conversions — converting 52 of their 102 attempts for 50.98 percent. The Tigers on the other side of the ball rank 21st in the nation in stopping opponents’ third-down conversion attempts, holding opponents only 30.17 percent of the time.
“I think that’s real important. I think they’re at their best when they get to third-and-1 and we’re at our best when it’s third-and-20, so it’s really important,” Venables said. “Third downs are incredibly important. If they’re able to stay on the field and possess the football, it’s the same thing, they’re going to make you bleed to death. It doesn’t allow your offense to get in a rhyme or rhythm as a team. I think getting stops against these guys, possessions are already going to be limited so getting stops against Georgia Tech is to a certain degree like getting a turnover and that’s how we look at it.
“Where they do a great job when games are close is wearing people out, late in the third and in the fourth quarters, doing the same things they been doing because players get lazy minded. They physically get lazy and they’re not as desperate and fanatical about doing their job.”