Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has to be pleased with the play of his defense, who kept the Orange from reaching the end zone despite the Orange totaling 397 yards. In today’s world of fast-paced offenses and the way rules are constructed, defenses can no longer be solely judged by the amount of yards that they give up in a game, and more factors must go into how much leeway to give these modern day defenses.
With that being said, here’s how the Tigers’ defense graded out against Syracuse:
Defensive Line: A
The defensive line for Clemson is steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with. Vic Beasley continues to be a problem for opposing left tackles week in and week out as he matched his sack total from last season after his two-sack performance against the Orange, raising his total to eight on the season.
Freshman defensive Shaq Lawson continues to get better as he gets more time on the field while developing as a defensive end. The freshman totaled three tackles, including a sack, against Syracuse while D.J. Reader got the last sack on the day. Grady Jarrett continues to be a disruptive force on the interior of the Tigers’ defensive line, totaling eight tackles on the day.
The defensive line kept Syracuse quarterback Terell Smith under wraps all game long, and were victorious in the trenches.
The linebackers had one of their more down performances in this game, allowing 323 rushing yards on the ground to the Syracuse running game, with running back Jerome Smith collecting 125 of those rushing yards. Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony each totaled five tackles, but getting caught inside and not getting off of blocks very well allowed Syracuse to pick up a lot of yards on the ground.
But with the Tigers staying mostly in a nickel defense for most of the game and Shuey and Anthony seeing the most time on the field, much of this could have been scheme-based as well, with the Tigers playing with five defensive backs for much of the game.
The Clemson secondary had arguably its best game of the season, as corners Bashuad Breeland, Darius Robinson, Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins all locked down the Syracuse Orange receivers. The Clemson secondary forced Smith into throwing three interceptions, two of which went to Robinson and one of which went to Breeland.
For the third time this season, the Tigers’ secondary did not allow any passing touchdowns. Safety Jayron Kearse got his first long look at safety when starter Travis Blanks went down with an injury, and recorded his first interception from backup Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen.
The extent of Blanks’ injury is unclear, and with Kearse’s potential, he could be the solution to the Tigers’ depth concerns at safety behind both Blanks and Robert Smith. Perhaps the most surprising stat of the game from this was that no true Syracuse wide receivers caught any passes in the entire game.