Clemson gave up 35 points in its season opener, but the Tajh Boyd-led offense produced 38 points and the Tigers beat Georgia.
Since then, Brent Venables' defense has held the fort. Clemson has held five straight opponents to 14 points or less, and now the third-ranked Tigers host No. 5 Florida State in college football's marquee Saturday game.
This is what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney envisioned when he hired away Venables from OU almost two years ago, after Venables was demoted following eight years as the Sooner defensive coordinator.
“We got a group of guys that love to play,” Venables told ESPN.com about his Clemson defense. “Got great leadership. We can cover up some of our weaknesses and deficiencies that every team has.”
It's fun to hear Venables talk about his Clemson defense the same way he talked about his OU defenses.
An example: “They're not cheating the game.” What he means is, players putting in the work during the week to be successful on Saturdays.
Which this week, won't be easy. Florida State has a star quarterback in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, who has thrown 17 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.
Clemson has a big-time pass rusher in Vic Beasley, who leads the nation with nine sacks. The Tigers will have to pressure Winston. He has proven he will pick defenses apart.
Clemson's defense is playing with a chip on its shoulder.
“Some of the guys maybe weren't as highly recruited … maybe some guys are tired of shootouts. I don't know,” Venables said.
“But I know we have great leadership. These guys work, they invest every day.”