CLEMSON — The Clemson defense has showed that, at least through their first two games, that they have every intention of being just as dominant as they were last season — in spite of having to replace five players, four starters, off the defensive line.
The Tigers are one of only three teams to have already played two Power 5 teams this season, the other two being Hawaii and North Carolina, but have seen their dominance continue.
Through their first two games the Tigers rank 18th in scoring (allowing 12 points per game), 38th in rush defense (105 yards per game allowed) and 36th in total defense (allowing 291.5 yards per game).
Even after proving that they can play at an elite level at home, now it is time for the Tigers to take their show on the road this week, as they head to The Dome (formerly the Carrier Dome) in Syracuse — sight of their last road conference loss — to take on an Orange team that is coming off an embarrassing loss at Maryland.
"To me right now, against Syracuse, again as we said after the game ... if they're something, they're tough," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "They'll respond and a wounded dog is the most dangerous dog, to me. They'll come in with a great deal of desperation, toughness, the right kind of mindset ... you know, coming off their last game."
There is one constant in facing a team that is coached by Orange head coach Dino Babers is that he is going to do whatever he can to stress opposing defenses, both with their tempo and making them defend the full field.
"They make you defend every patch of grass and they do a great job with their scheme in the run and pass game and their RPOs and then all the exotics and trickery, if you will, that comes off of it," Venables said. "If they've got an arc pass, they've got an arc and go. You know, if they've got a jet pass or they got the throwbacks, the double pass ... they'll throw it back to the quarterback ... they do a lot of that really forces you to play with a lot of discipline. A very option like in some of the discipline that it takes and the philosophy that it takes."
The biggest difference for the Orange, who are looking to knock off the Tigers for the second time in a row at home, is at quarterback.
Gone is the bane of many defensive coordinators existence, former starting quarterback Eric Dungey, and now the Orange are breaking in first-year starter Tommy DeVito,
But when Venables looks at DeVito he see's a lot more in common with Dungey than he sees different.
"What's different? It just is probably a level of playing experience," Venables said. "He's got a big arm, he's athletic, very mobile, stands tall in the pocket, can throw on the run ... there's probably more similarities than there are differences. He's been in the system, so it's not like they just signed him ... so he's had experience. I think he, a year ago, had over 100 attempts throwing the ball. Played extensively at North Carolina, Florida State, of course Notre Dame when Dungey got hurt early in that game ... and has played well.
"I know they lost against Maryland but he played well and threw for over 300 yards and threw some terrific balls, they still got really good skill at both receiver and back, and at tight end. So again, I see more similarities than I do differences. He's probably more calm and ... I don't know if poised is the right word ... but as we know, Dungey ... he's like Coach Venables playing quarterback, just with a lot of emotion, wore it on his sleeve. DeVito seems a little more calm in his presence, probably, leadership wise.
The biggest challenge this week for Venables is making sure that his players get their assignments in enough time to handle the crowd, the tempo, the adversity and The Dome.
"Yeah, we've got to do a good job of getting our calls and getting our hands in the dirt so we can play with, again, fundamentals and technique," Venables said. "So that's always really, really important.
"I think, again, as we've said, handling adversity is a lot easier than handling success and just having the right mindset, the hunger, the toughness and again, really knowing your opponent."