2. Defense played a complete game.
There was a legitimate concern that Tennessee football would struggle significantly on defense in this one. Linebacker Jeremy Banks opted out, and the Vols looked awful the last time they played a game without him. That happened to come against the South Carolina Gamecocks, a game they lost 63-38 in which they gave up nine touchdowns in 10 legitimate possessions.
Clemson came into this game with a lot of hype on offense thanks to Cade Klubnik starting at quarterback. He led them to their ACC Championship win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. However, Josh Heupel and Tim Banks had a month to prepare for the new quarterback, and they were able to expose him.
Rocky Top forced two turnovers, both interceptions by Klubnik, and they came away with four sacks. Aaron Beasley and Byron Young each had two. The Beasley sacks are a testament to Banks’ game plan and his blitz packages, while the Young sacks are a testament to the defensive line.
Clemson was able to finish the game with 484 yards, but given the flow of the game, they would’ve had over 600 yards if not for the bend but don’t break defense. That was helped out, though, by the final point in this post.