CLEMSON, S.C. — Throughout the year, Clemson has shown glimpses of how dominant it can be on defense.
With the exception of a couple of games, the ninth-ranked Tigers have been solid at stopping the run. There have been times when they have gotten after the passer and affected the passing game. There have been a few times when the secondary shut down a receiver or two.
However, it has not come together at the same time. Not until Saturday.
Clemson held Miami to 98 total yards in one of the most dominating performances on one side of the football in the program’s history.
“Defensively, it was just an awesome day,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after his team’s 40-10 victory at Memorial Stadium. “Ninety-eight total yards in modern day football, that is hard to do. So, really proud of our defense.”
The Tigers (10-1, 8-0 ACC) held the Hurricanes to eight total yards and one first down in the first half. Miami had minus-11 yards at the end of the first quarter. They had just five rushing yards in the opening 30 minutes.
“We definitely sensed we were playing well, but we just tried to focus on the next play,” said linebacker Jerimiah Trotter, Jr., who finished the afternoon with nine tackles, one sack and one broken up pass. “We just tried to focus on the upcoming drive and stopping them in that drive. We did not want to get caught up in the stats and lose focus on the main goal and just being dominant throughout the whole game.”
Miami’s 98 total yards were the third-lowest single-game total in Miami history, trailing the Hurricanes’ 22-yard performance against Kentucky in 1951 and their 87-yard effort against Notre Dame in 1965.
The 98 yards were Clemson’s fewest allowed since holding South Carolina State to 44 yards in 2014. It was Clemson’s first time holding an ACC opponent below 100 yards since 2009 (54 vs. Boston College).
“I am just really proud of our defense’s effort,” defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin said. “It comes from preparation. We had a tremendous week of practice and guys getting the focus, the details, the alignments. The last two weeks, they have learned throughout the week, and it is showing on Saturday night.”
Miami (5-6, 3-4 ACC) ran just 42 offensive plays, had six three-and-outs on 13 possessions, that includes a one-play drive at the end of the game, and did not have a drive longer than 49 yards. In fact, they had just two drives that went for 32 or more yards.
The Hurricanes were 3-for-11 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down.
The Tigers also had five sacks, seven tackles for loss, forced two turnovers and recorded a safety.
“It was just a great, great day defensively,” Swinney said. “They had ninety-eight total yards and forty came on one play. We did not fit that one up right, but it was just a great day.”
Clemson’s defense will try to match that performance next Saturday when it hosts rival South Carolina in the annual in-state rivalry game. The Gamecocks stunned the college football world Saturday night by beating No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 in Columbia.
USC quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns on 30 of 37 passing. The Gamecocks racked up a season-high 606 total yards.
“South Carolina is a goal of its own for us. It is a season of its own,” Swinney said. “So, it is that time. Looking forward to another great time in the Valley next week and see if we can continue to add momentum to our season.”