Tuesdays with Brent Venables

CLEMSON - In the final moments leading up to kickoff on Saturday night, Brent Venables couldn't help but feel a little bit isolated.

For Clemson's brand new defensive coordinator, the overload of first times hit him all at once.

"It was kind of a weird feeling. I just felt very alone before the game started," Venables said. "I had been in that situation before. I just felt, although I was very familiar with everybody, it was a different kind of feeling."

The loneliness subsided after the opening kickoff.

"Once the game starts it's, like, faceless," he said. "What's the personnel? What's the down and distance?"

And once all the dust settled, a win made the experience even more special.

"To have our team kind of rally together, fight through some real adverse conditions and beat a good team on that stage, it was pretty neat, it being our first game here at Clemson," Venables said.

Clemson allowed 374 total yards on 64 plays. Auburn scored just one touchdown and had to settle for field goals on all three trips to the red zone.

So, what exactly did he learn about his players in week one?

"Just how they handled the adversity, a tight game, how they responded. They came up with some big stops, stuck together as a football team."

Up next for Venables is the up-tempo Ball State offense that reeled off 96 plays and 596 yards of total offense in last week's win over Eastern Michigan.

THE BALL STATE OFFENSE: Eleven months ago, Ball State ventured west for an unfavorable matchup with No. 2 Oklahoma. The Sooners' defense, headed up by Venables, held Ball State to six points and 214 yards.

Then, Pete Lembo was in his first season as the Ball State head coach when he took the Cardinals to Norman.

"These boys better get ready to strap it on. [Ball State] opened the game at Oklahoma last year, they onside kicked it and they got it," Venables said. "They're going to have that go for broke, got nothing to lose, let's bring it attitude. If we don't match that intensity and focus, we'll be embarrassed."

With Lembo in Death Valley on Saturday will be a fast-paced, spread offense.

"The precision of throwing and running, and the manipulation from the sideline -- they're not just running plays and hoping they work," Venables said. "Mike Leach is going to run his seven routes and that's it. He's going to run them over and over and make you be very precise in defending them."

HURRY UP, DEFENSE: Venables is familiar with coaching against offenses that like to turn up the tempo.

While at Oklahoma, Venables' defenses faced hurry-up systems from Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Missouri.

"They were top 10 in the country the last few years -- year in and year out -- in plays per game," he said.

It certainly helps that Venables faced up-tempo offenses on the practice field at Oklahoma and Clemson.

BEND BUT DON'T BREAK: Venables hardly fancies his defense as a bend but don't break kind of scheme. But it just so happened that's how things turned out against Auburn.

"There are things that you've got to defend better," he said. "We've got to get better across the board. I'm running out of fingers and toes on the things we've got to get better at.

"That's usually pretty typical for the first game of the year. I don't know many years when that hasn't been the case. You always want more, expect more. I believe we'll get that."

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