Mike Jones Jr.'s First Career Interception Was Fueled by Bacon and Grits

Christopher Hall

Clemson has yet to truly be at full strength on the defensive side of the ball this season and that trend continued on Saturday against Syracuse. 

Facing adversity for the first time this season and without the services of defensive lineman Tyler Davis and linebacker James Skalski, the Tiger defense rose to the occasion when it mattered most. 

With the Tigers set to play in their third straight noon kickoff this weekend against Boston College, linebacker Mike Jones Jr. was asked what his go-to breakfast meal is like. You can put it on the record that it's not like what Travis Etienne partook of last weekend.

"I'm from the south so my main thing is--of course I have to get some bacon but I'm a grits guy," Jones said. "So I get me some grits with cheese, salt, and butter. That's kinda been a thing for me since I was a baby. I've always been a big grits guy so that's probably my go-to at hotels and of course a lot of water. I'm not a cereal dude like some other dudes on the team." 

Led by four turnovers including three interceptions, Clemson played a pretty flawless game defensively outside of a few costly mistakes the Tigers were able to hold the Orange in check and thwart out drives at the most opportune moments. 

Jones was one of the recipients of a Rex Culpepper pass and he nearly took his first career interception back to the house returning it down inside the Orange's five-yard line. 

Jones admitted he thought he had the pick-six in the bag and wasn't expected to be caught from behind and forced out of bounds on his 40-yard return. 

"Honestly, I thought he had like dove for me earlier--I thought I felt him touch me," Jones said. "I thought 'oh yeah, I'm gone. The first pick in the valley and a pick-six!' that one caught me off guard. I was not ready for that at all, but such a great moment." 

Jones tallied three tackles, a half-sack, and an interception return that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown in the Tigers 47-21 triumph over Syracuse. The redshirt sophomore from Nashville, Tenn was pleased with how the defense performed overall despite being put into a few bad situations. 

"That really stood out big to me, especially after halftime. It was like we caught a second wind out there. We were hype and ready to go," Jones said. "We've got some fighters that will forget the last play and go battle for the next one. As a group, I feel like that's our mentality and who we've been and made ourselves out to be and, hopefully, we'll keep rolling on that." 

With Skalski unavailable for Saturday's tilt with Syracuse, redshirt sophomore Jake Venables took over and held his own. In a key position often referred to as the quarterback of the defense, he tallied seven stops and one-half tackle for loss. Venables of course is the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. 

"Jake did a great job. Just like with most things here, we don't expect a fall off. We prepare as if every week we all gotta go in and win the game," Venables said. "Jake did a great job all week of being that guy. I don't think we missed a beat and I'm just excited to see him keep growing and evolving too. That's my roommate so that's my dog, I was hype." 

Jones was also excited for Jaylen Phillips who chased down Syracuse's Nykeim Johnson for a touchdown-saving tackle only to be rewarded with an interception the very next play. 

"That was awesome and a huge effort play," Jones said. "That was ridiculous (to save the touchdown). JP is a baller for that, he's been a baller. But I feel like that is who this defense has become. That's one thing we do--we run to the ball all game. We have a ball hungry mentality and JP did that, that's all that play was."