Brent Venables studies Clemson’s opponent inside and out each week, breaking down film and searching for tendencies that might help his defense in a key spot.
The 48-year-old defensive coordinator is one of the best in the business at having his unit prepared, and that was on display once again Saturday night.
When Clemson had to make a stand on North Carolina’s two-point conversion attempt with 1:17 left to preserve Clemson’s 21-20 lead, Venables had the Tigers ready. He huddled up his defense during the timeout prior to UNC’s two-point try and told them of a few possible plays North Carolina might go to.
“Brent said we would probably get the speed option,” Dabo Swinney recalled following Clemson’s 20th consecutive victory. “They’ll put the ball in the quarterback’s hands and see if they could find a crease on us.”
Sure enough, with the game on the line, North Carolina called an option play.
Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell took the snap and faked the handoff to running back Javonte Williams, who had just scored a touchdown to pull UNC to within a point.
Howell then sprinted to his right with Dazz Newsome, who came in motion on the play, beside him ready for the pitch. Clemson had the perfect call on as Nolan Turner ran with Newsome, and Xavier Thomas and James Skalski chased after Howell. Eventually, when Howell had no option but to lower his head and try to get into the end zone, Turner, Thomas and Skalski all converged upon him.
Howell desperately pitched the ball to Newsome as he was falling to the ground, but Chad Smith was waiting and forced him out of bounds at the 2.
“We practiced against it all week. We felt like that’s what they were familiar with during the clutch moments. That’s what they were going to go to,” Wallace said. “It was only like two or three things that (Venables) knew for certain they were gonna do, and that was one of them, the play that they ran. We were in the best call to execute and come out victorious.”