Answers for the naysayers

ATLANTA - There was plenty of doubt surrounding the Clemson football program before Saturday night's 26-19 win over Auburn, and much of it was justified.

For starters, they couldn't win in Atlanta.

Heading into The Rubber Match in the Georgia Dome, Clemson was 0-6 in the Georgia State capital since 2005.

"Everybody's entitled to their own opinion," said Rashard Hall, who hauled in his 11th career interception. "At the end of the day, when you look at it, it's just backyard football.

"Can't win in Atlanta? It's just football. We won in Atlanta."

How about that defense that gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl?

Even though Brent Venables wasn't with them for the 70-33 loss to West Virginia, that didn't keep the first-year defensive coordinator from bringing up the Orange Bowl debacle.

"The last couple of weeks, just so it's on everybody's mind, people don't think too much of us," Venables said, when asked about his message.

"We've got a lot to prove as a program, certainly as a defense -- all of us. I think [the players] really took ownership into that."

Then, of course, the offense was without Sammy Watkins. You know, that guy, the All-Everything play-making wide receiver who was serving the first half of a two-game suspension.

Tajh Boyd didn't seem too bothered that he did have Watkins to look to throughout the night. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 208 yards.

"It was unfortunate that we didn't have him, but I feel encouraged about the guys that we did have," Boyd said. "Of course, it's going to be special when he gets back."

Ellington added, "People are still going to have doubt about Clemson. They're going to say, ‘Can they put two big games back-to-back?' Our big focus is focusing on Monday and get ready for Ball State."

Hurry-up, no-huddle…
"It was pretty good tempo tonight. They were doing a lot of different stuff, but I think we can go a lot faster than what we were doing." - Dalton Freeman

"We ran [87] plays. That's awesome. The thing is, we still thought we could have run more." - Boyd

"That's what it's all about, just getting everybody on the same page and getting in a rhythm and really making the defense tired. There were a few times when they were even in their stance…we just lined up and played football." - Freeman

"We're going at a much faster pace. We snapped the ball 91 times tonight." - Chad Morris

Bowing up…
"We gave up some runs, some long runs. They blocked us. They cut us. They reached us. They knocked us on the ground. We've got to get better. Obviously, they did a nice job." - Venables

"Defensively, we gave up one touchdown. I'm proud of them. We played a bunch of guys on the defensive line. They got better as the game went along." - Dabo Swinney

"At the end of the day, scoring defense is what it's about. There's nothing more important. I think it is obvious how that game would have gone if we gave up touchdowns, instead of field goals." - Venables

"We made a lot of good plays down the stretch in that second half. They were really tough on both third and the one fourth-down. They were both huge plays. We responded to some adversity in a big-time way. Holding them out of the end zone and holding the team in the opener to one touchdown, it says a lot about our guys." - Venables

On the offensive line…
"It was the same five the entire game, until the very end." - Freeman

"I want to be the first to tell you. I am extremely proud of our offensive line. That's a group that we have challenged and have been challenging from day one about playing physical." - Morris

"Just seeing those guys gut it out and stick together for four quarters, it was amazing." - Ellington

"It was time for them to step and get some respect. It was their turn to step up and get an identity of this football team. If we're going to win, and win at the level we expect to win at, we're going to have to run the football, so I'm extremely proud of our offensive line right now." - Morris

"Everybody thought that since we didn't have experience that we weren't going to be very good. I kept telling everybody that just because you don't have experience it doesn't mean that you're not going to be very good." - Freeman Top Stories