After a crazy week in which Deshaun Watson apologized for the way the offense has played the first two games, and then Dabo Swinney’s eight-minute rant which caused a stir on social media platforms, third-ranked Clemson is just ready to get on the field when it host S.C. State today at noon in Death Valley.
Swinney likes to say football is a way for everyone to get away and leave their real worldly problems behind for three hours on Saturday afternoons in the fall. It’s one of the reasons why he loves the game so much.
However, this week it is Swinney and the Tigers (2-0) that are using football as a way to get away from their problems, or at least cure some of them.
Swinney is hoping to forget this week after he was ridiculed for his remarks regarding Collin Kaepernick’s right not to stand during the National Anthem in protest to racial injustice and police brutality. On the field, Watson and the Clemson offense hope to forget the last two weeks and get things rolling against a Bulldogs’ defense that has allowed 91 points in its first two games.
“We just can’t get in rhythm because we can’t catch the ball right now and that affects everything,” Swinney said. “It is really as simple as that. When we pitch and catch better, everything else will be better.”
Clemson’s wide receivers have dropped 12 passes in two games, including eight against Troy last week. The Tigers did not reach eight drops for the entire season until the fourth game of the season last year, and that was when they dropped four in the win over Notre Dame in a driving rain storm.
“It is not really more complicated than that. It would be more complicated if we couldn’t get open, if we couldn’t block people, if plays weren’t there, things like that. So right now it is a matter of us cleaning up execution and getting focused on the way things need to be,” Swinney said. “When that happens all of the rest of it will come together, we will be just fine.”
Brent Venables’ defense has been a little more consistent and has had a little more fun in the process. The Tigers have 21 tackles for loss and five sacks to go with six forced turnovers. Venables linebackers have four of Clemson’s five interceptions. Opponents are just 5-of-32 (16 percent) on third down.
However, as good as Clemson has played at times on defense, it has yielded three touchdowns in the final five minutes of each game, and that is something Swinney wants cleaned up in today’s game.
“Defensively, I want to see us play four quarters,” Swinney said. “Play four quarters, not fifty five minutes. Not fifty nine minutes and twenty seconds. Let’s play a complete game and continue to have the type of improvement we have had on special teams, and also continue to develop the depth of our team.”
Swinney said it’s important for his team to play sharp, especially with the Georgia Tech game (next Thursday night) being such a quick turnaround.
“We are going to play two games in five days so we are going to really have to rely on our depth a little bit on Saturday,” he said. “That is really it. Just a cleaner execution and see that mentality that we talked about all week.”