CLEMSON — In Brent Venables’ words, his Clemson defense simply wasn’t good enough Saturday night. The Tigers were nickel-and-dimed to death by South Carolina and backup quarterback Dylan Thompson in a 27-17 defeat. USC ran 86 plays and held the ball for 39:58, slowly strangling the life out of Clemson’s offense in the second half.
The Gamecocks converted 11 of 21 third downs as Thompson passed for 310 yards, winning the rivalry game for the fourth consecutive season.
Venables discussed his defense’s struggles, Thompson and more with reporters afterward:
On not being able to get off the field in the second half: “Nope, couldn’t make a play, couldn’t get a stop. Defense is about making stops. Overall, the year we’ve played pretty good on third and fourth downs. Tonight they had our number. They were more precise than us, made a couple critical errors there in the second half, a couple of third down conversions, let (Dylan Thompson) run around at critical times. We just weren’t good enough. Didn’t coach them good enough. And couldn’t make a play when they needed one.”
Was Thompson more adept as a runner than you thought: “Yeah. The M.O. was that it wasn’t his cup of tea. I think he showed when he needed to, he extended some plays. He defended very well.”
On generating pressure early but not late: “Again, it was a deal where we got into a number of third and fourth-down situations where we got the third down and they converted, a number of third down conversions in that third quarter were on penalties on us, as well. We couldn’t get into a rhythm because of both them and us. It was a funny game. Opportunities were there and we couldn’t get them. You’ve got to give them all the credit. They scrapped together enough plays and conversions to keep us on our heels, keep the offense off the field. In the second half we couldn’t get in that rhythm.”
On getting spread out: “When they did that, those were long-yardage situations. We had a drop-eight where they hit us for a touchdown. Hit the seam route in there, and again, we had some opportunities to make some plays, we couldn’t quite do it.”
Offensive touches: “It worked. They were nickel-and-diming us, just executing and making plays when they had to and keeping our offense off the field.”
On Xavier Brewer: “Xavier had a real big game. He was around the football a lot, disruptive, getting good coverage for most of the night. What we needed along with that was a win. We pressured (Thompson) and he showed up in the run game a few times in coverage. Just had good awareness tonight. Anticipated things well. Was physical. Made a number of big plays in the game.”
On Thompson’s legs again: “It’s not like he can’t run. What he did was very timely. The opportunities that they took with him to run, we didn’t do a good enough job of preparing our guys for that. A few calls that we could have changed the call. We’d love to get a couple of those plays back, those third-down situations. Unfortunately you can’t. But they did a good job of scheming a couple of things up.”
On USC being a step up in competition from ACC play: “I don’t know. Five, six minutes to go in the game, we’ve got an opportunity. It’s a one-score game. I look at every game different. Every game’s competitive, everything’s got its ebbs and flows. We had a number of opportunities where we could have changed the game. They were good enough and we weren’t.”