Confidence growing for Clemson defense

CLEMSON - There haven't been too many times during Sammy Watkins' career that he could offer positive words about the Clemson defense.

To say the Tigers have struggled on that side of the ball would be an understatement.

But in Saturday's 56-7 romp over Wake Forest, Clemson gave up just 60 yards rushing and 162 through the air.

Of the Demon Deacons' 14 third-down opportunities, only two were converted.

And they had almost as many punts [10] as first-downs [14].

Wake Forest entered the game with the second-worst offense in the ACC. Brent Venables' crew made sure that they stayed down there.

"I'm not worried about the defense like I was two years ago, or last year," Watkins said. "They're doing a great job. I go against them everyday in practice. I know they're going to be tremendous every week, week in and week out."

It's been a while since Dabo Swinney could count on his defense on a weekly basis. Combine that newly discovered confidence with the high-scoring offense and he feels this is the best team he's had at Clemson.

"I definitely think this is our most complete team. I think it's our deepest that we've had," Swinney said. "When you can win on defense, win on special teams and win on offense, you've got a chance to be pretty good."

Now, the offense doesn't have to score just about every time it touches the field.

"We don't always have to play great on offense," Swinney said. "We've got to play OK, but we don't have to play great. We can make a difference in the game on special teams. We can make a difference in the game, defensively, and vice versa."

"Good teams find ways to win in critical situations. Right now, we've found a way to win four games. I think we're improving as a team. We're nowhere near playing our best football game. Our best football is still to come."

How Tajh Boyd got his groove back

"I think the biggest thing with Tajh and his demeanor -- just relax and go play, and quit pressing. I think you saw that. I saw that, too, in his pregame demeanor. He was loose and just kind of -- this is what he does. I think we saw the Tajh Boyd we're all used to seeing." - Chad Morris

"I have put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. You start to go out there and try to prove things to other people, but I just need to go out and enjoy it. I have pretty much accomplished everything you can in a college career minus a couple of things -- three things. I just need to enjoy this last go-round while I have it." - Boyd

"I wasn't worried about Tajh's performance against N.C. State. This offense is a game of routine. You've got to get in a rhythm. I think this game actually put us in a rhythm, to get this offense flowing. That's what he [did]. We attacked them, took a lot of deep ball shots. That's what got our offense going today." - Sammy Watkins

The lull

"Three three-and-outs, Ryan [Norton] went out, Jay [Guillermo] came in. We kind of had a bad snap or two, kind of got behind the chains. No panic. It was just, let's do what we do." - Morris

"We had some miscues, bad snap, but, for the most part, they did a tremendous job." - Swinney

More D talk

"They like to play. They just like to play. As a group, we've got great chemistry. Guys trust each other. They hold each other accountable. Guys aren't trying to do too much most of the time. Guys just do their [job]." - Venables

"I definitely think it was a big statement for us as a defense and as a team. Defensively, we have been able to prove that we can be consistent and have performed every week. Offense played great today and put up a lot of points and so did special teams so it was definitely a great team win." - Spencer Shuey

"This is a year that we wanted to get better. We really learned the system now. We are accustomed to it. We just want to go out there and play fast." - Bashaud Breeland

"Guys are more in position where they need to be. We tackled pretty good today. We were much more competitive on the backend, as far as competing for balls. Defensive line-wise, we've got some good players up there that cause problems." - Swinney

"They were able to drive the ball down the field a couple of times on us and we were able to respond to adversity with our next play mentality. We were able to go out there the next couple of drives and make some stops. It was definitely great to be able to respond like that." - Shuey

"The effort and the attitude are the foundation. Our guys like to play. They've bought into that whole standard -- this is how you play. You come out and you're not on edge, don't have intensity, they will move the ball down the field and embarrass you." - Venables

"We just go out there and play as a team. We're just happy to go out there and play." - Breeland

Back from suspension

"What was good to see, when Martavis [Bryant] did get in the second half. He made some key catches on some critical drives for us, and that was good to see. He made some really good blocks. That's what I told him. He made a couple of key catches, but I could care less about that. He made two blocks that I saw, that really sparked the run that we needed." - Morris

More quotes

"We always have our openers. It's great when we go right through the openers and they work. You stay on schedule. It worked beautifully. We hit the score, then come right back on our script. We kept executing. I can't say enough about our players, our coaches and the job they did. I thought we had great practice. I thought we had really good energy, intensity and focus this week." - Swinney

"[Leggett] is a phenomenal athlete. He can be lazy. This gives us a chance to coach him even harder than we've been coaching him. I can promise you he's grinning ear to ear right now. That's alright, because we're going to keep coaching him hard. And he's going to keep grinning." - Morris

"It's just how our program is. We just want to play to the best of our ability. We all want to play great here. I feel like we bring that tradition to Clemson, because we really want to go back and do things that the greats did. We don't want to disappoint the greats. We're playing under them, so we've got to hold up the standard. We've got to keep grinding hard." - Zac Brooks

"The coaches really coached us hard this week. We thought Wake Forest's defense is pretty good. We just practiced with the mentality that we were going to be the best offense on the field. That's the way we approached it." - Watkins

"In the games that they've played this year, [Wake Forest] kind of changed philosophies a little bit from one week to the other. They run a lot of option one week [and] they don't run much option the next week. From that standpoint, there was a lot to cover, a lot to get ready for. But, at the end of the day, it's about knowing your system, being able to execute it." - Swinney

"I think this is the first game this offense came together and moved the ball well. We had a lot of quick plays, a lot of run, pass tags. Tajh did a great job of getting the ball out quick, being so decisive with his passing." - Watkins

"It's just playing to our standard and not playing to an opponent. Wake Forest is a great team, but we have what we need here at Clemson to be great and be one of the top contenders in the nation." - Shuey Top Stories