On the Beat: Venables not satisfied yet with Clemson defense

Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney on the sideline during the Tigers’ game against Wofford on Saturday. Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

Six three-and-outs launched the season. Clemson did not allow Wofford a first down until the final two minutes of the first half.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables celebrated with the verbal version of a grunt.

“I don’t think it’s an accomplishment,” Venables said Tuesday. “We had a lot of things go our way. They’re outmanned, and they probably didn’t play as well as they’re capable of playing. Everything kind of clicked for us.”

That’s as close as an acknowledgement as there will be that Wofford, an FCS team with 22 fewer scholarships than Clemson, is a lesser foe. Even so, Wofford is among the elite offenses at the FCS level, particularly in the running game with its triple-option attack that gives defenses fits, and the Terriers could muster very little against the Tigers.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be up 35-0,” Venables said. “I don’t have any kind of expectation this week, at all. This is a better team with more quality players and a completely different matchup.”

He refers to Appalachian State, which can move the ball through the air and on the ground and has seven straight wins to prove it. Clemson is a 17-point favorite.

Then comes the rarest of challenges: only four off days before a road game at Louisville.

“There’s not near as much time. You adjust your physical preparation, because literally your time on the field is less, time studying is less,” Venables said. “We’ve tried to do some work in the offseason to get ready for this.”

The Cardinals went 1-for-17 on third downs in last year’s 23-17 Clemson win, but Louisville nearly stormed back from a deep second-half deficit vs. Auburn Saturday, with reserve freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson (106 yards rushing, 100 yards passing) posing a dual threat.

“I guarantee you Auburn got caught with their pants down with a number of things that I saw,” Venables said. “They put some things together for (the new QB.) We don’t have a lot of tape on him, but we have it now.”

Head coach Dabo Swinney doesn’t expect too many calls for moving the goalposts back after wide receiver Mike Williams crashed into the padded stanchion Saturday and suffered a small fracture in his neck, potentially ending his season.

“It was kind of a freak, bang-bang thing,” Swinney said. “I don’t know really what you can do. Gotta have goalposts. You can’t hang them from the sky.”

Porter-Gaud product Stanton Seckinger, a senior still rehabbing from knee surgery last winter, practiced this week after sitting out the Wofford game and is on track to return vs. Appalachian State.

Tight ends Jordan Leggett and Garrett Williams remain atop the depth chart.