DURHAM, N.C. — Brent Venables had reason for belief Saturday night. His Clemson defense allowed 20 points to a potent Duke offense, but only three after halftime. A banged-up secondary allowed a 77-yard touchdown to quarterback Sean Renfree, but was otherwise quite calm. The Tigers’ pass rush improved, piling up four sacks. It was a solid night for an improving defense, and Venables discussed it with reporters afterward:
On the second half: “I felt we’d given up a couple big plays in the first half, a couple of one-on-one matchups where they got behind us. Other than that, really pleased with positioning, guys came out determined to play better than they did in the first half. Just there were a lot of things that were really positive. We played nine linebackers. I’ve never played nine linebackers in a whole season, much less a single game. But we got nine linebackers in, pressure up front, very solid in run defense, and we played a whole bunch of guys on the back end as well.
“We might have emptied the roster on the road against a good quality team. Having a perspective from that standpoint, our guys seemed to continue to get a little better week in and week out.”
On playing with a lead and a prolific offense, and if it makes it easier: “Not for me, no. The opponent’s hand is forced when we start to pull away, get the comfortable lead. But in regards to playing good defense, you don’t take it any easier when bad things happen, trust me. So people are going to make plays, move the ball, score points. But you don’t want to make it easier. So it’s tackling, staying on top of routes, doing your job. When you have gap integrity, looking up front, those are things you’re looking for. Again, it’s not 60 minutes of it but we’re getting closer.”