CLEMSON — When Clemson’s Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup with LSU was set Sunday, it would have been reasonable to think “second verse, same as the first.”
Two weeks ago, the Tigers faced off with another physical SEC defensive line in South Carolina, and it didn’t go well.
The Gamecocks piled up six sacks – 4.5 from sophomore All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney – in a 27-17 victory.
LSU also features a very talented, tough defensive line. Junior defensive end Sam Montgomery, a Greenwood native, has 32 tackles, seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Junior end Barkevious Mingo has 33 tackles, four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
In fact, six Tigers have at least three sacks on the season.
“They’re a really stout defensive line,” said junior right guard Tyler Shatley. “We’ve faced some pretty good guys like South Carolina had, but I think LSU, they’re really good. They’ve got a lot of depth.”
Senior center Dalton Freeman agreed.
“It’s a great opportunity for us and the offensive line, the whole team, to see where we stand as a unit and as a program,” he said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for everyone involved.”
They’re an all-around solid group, Shatley said.
“From what I’ve watched, they play really hard, there are some big guys who run fast,” Shatley said. “I think that’s the key. They play really hard and really aggressive.”
Entering the South Carolina game, Clemson had allowed 20 sacks through 11 games. The previous two weeks, Maryland and N.C. State entered Memorial Stadium as the ACC’s sack leaders. Both left with no sacks.
So what happened? And was it All-ACC junior left tackle Brandon Thomas’ fault?
Not exactly, Freeman said.
“There were some physical things. We did simply get beat a couple of times,” Freeman said. “There were also a couple of times when Tajh (Boyd) rolled and Clowney got a couple of sacks and it was credited to our right tackle. It wasn’t even the same side. The right tackle and right end moved and ran into our left tackle and that caused Clowney to free up. It’s just a game, things like that happen. “
Momentum, Freeman said, was also a factor.
“We got down and had to press a little bit, probably pressed too much,” he said. “They were able to pin their ears back and start rushing the passer. I think if we were able to keep the momentum, keep the lead and stop them on that critical third down (before USC took the lead), a lot would have changed.”
They’ll have one more opportunity to change those feelings on New Year’s Eve.
“You hate to lose the last game of the season, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for a long time,” Shatley said. “Hopefully we can get that out.”