SUNSET, S.C.—Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables can laugh about it now—following his defense helping lead the Tigers to a national championship victory, but the fact of the matter is the shovel pass still has the coach cringing.
“That would be an interesting statistic, post-Pitt game,” Venables said. “One of the most miserable things I’ve witnessed. That’s like not stopping the dive against Georgia Tech…You watch Georgia Tech through the years, and then how many times have you seen that fullback just right up the middle—the play that everybody hate. ‘Why do we keep running it up the middle?’ and it’s been very effective for Georgia Tech.
“Well, if you’re on the defensive side that’s about as bad as it gets to have to witness that fullback up the middle—that’s what the shovel is for teams that don’t run the triple option.
Pittsburgh found the Tigers’ weakness and exploited it, as they ran the shovel-pass 13 times for 74 yards in the Tigers’ only loss last season.
The Tigers inability to stop the shovel against Pittsburgh was, in part, due to the fact that Pittsburgh attacked their strengths—attacking and pursuing the ball.
“Be disciplined. Sit, Squeeze,” Venables said. “They’ve got a guy running away from you, in your face and he’s like, you’re supposed to see ball, get ball. Attack. It goes against see ball, get ball—it goes against attack. So, you’ve got to play very disciplined and sit on the line of scrimmage.”
It was something that the coaching staff understood they had better have an answer for in their remaining two games against Wake Forest and South Carolina, because they were sure to see the shovel-pass in every game from then on out.
And an answer is exactly what they found.
The next week against Wake Forest, defensive end Clelin Ferrell read the Demon Deacons play call and decleated the Wake Forest running back—that led the Tigers defensive coordinator to allow himself a small celebration.
“I think we had good success after Ohio State, Virginia Tech, South Carolina—Alabama was smart enough not to put it in—Wake Forest,” Venables continued. “If you see it again, zoom in on Coach V and you’ll see how I feel about it. And when we stone it, you’re going to see a very small celebration.”