Enter Andre Branch.
Clemson's senior defensive end recorded three sacks alone in the second half of Saturday's 23-3 win at No. 11 Virginia Tech, helping him earn ACC defensive lineman of the week.
Branch also had 11 total tackles, including five for loss, which tied his career high. More importantly, he helped hold a Hokies offense without a touchdown.
It was the first time since 1995 Tech failed to score a touchdown at home.
A Virginia native and a senior leader for the Tigers, Branch was overdue for a breakout performance in the 2011 season.
"Coach Steele said the sky is the limit for me, and I don't want to disappoint him or my team," Branch tells CUTigers. "I just want to play at the best of my ability every game."
The entire defense certainly played close to the best of its ability on Saturday night, with exception of a few missed tackles. In a game where the Tigers' offense faced its first road test as well as adverse weather conditions, Clemson's defense responded to the challenge.
They garnered 10 tackles for loss and allowed the Hokies only 258 total yards on offense. The defense had only 12 tackles for loss during its entire first four games.
"Basically, we just played as a unit and we just went out there and didn't make mistakes and give the other team big plays, and that's why it happened like it did," he said.
Despite Clemson working its way to a top 10 national ranking, Branch knows it's a long season.
While pundits are praising Clemson left and right, there's plenty of work to be done.
"5-0 is good for right now, but I want to be undefeated when it counts. I want to see where we are when the ACC championship comes and in the later months. I'm loving everything we're doing, but it doesn't mean anything if we don't keep getting better."
This week against Boston College, the Tigers' defensive front must prepare for 2011 ACC Preseason Player of the Year, running back Montel Harris.
Harris rushed for nearly 150 yards and scored the Eagles' only touchdown of the game last year in a 16-10 win in Chesnut Hill, Mass.
"Montel is a great running back," said Branch. "Boston College has been like a thorn in our side. We all just have to focus on our game. We can't focus on who we're playing, we have to focus on playing our ball and everything else will work out."
Clemson's one-man wrecking crew
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