Tigers winning on borrowed time


Thanks to Kyle Bambard’s miss of a 33-yard field goal as time expired in regulation on Saturday, third-ranked Clemson is still undefeated.

“Right now, we’ve beat everybody, but Clemson. We’re trying to beat Clemson, but we haven’t quite achieved that yet,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

However, the Tigers, who beat Bambard and NC State in overtime, are trying to beat themselves. In the last three games they have turned the football over 10 times, including nine in their last two home games.

Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) had four turnovers in its, 24-17, overtime win over the Wolfpack, while overcoming five in its dramatic win over Louisville on Oct. 1. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Tigers have lost the turnover margin by two or more nine times, but still they have found a way to win all nine games.

“It’s crazy. We were negative in the (turnover) margin last year and we made to the national championship game,” Swinney said. “It’s one of those things where we have to get it corrected. We were minus-two today. It’s one of those things. We still have a lot of ball left, but hopefully we can turn that thing around and finish on the positive side of things before the season is over. That is certainly a goal of ours.”

This year, Clemson has lost the turnover battle three times—Auburn, Louisville and NC State—and still found a way to win all three games. Last year, the Tigers lived on the edge as well as they became the first team in FBS history to advance to the national title game despite losing the turnover battle six times.

While Clemson is perfect during this stretch, the rest of the FBS has lost 80 percent of its games when on the losing end of the turnover margin.

“We just keep swinging. That’s all you can do,” Swinney said. “Keep battling and we will keep stressing what we stress in practice. All I can say is that sometimes you go through cycles like that. Our guys are trying hard.”

In Swinney’s defense, his players were giving maximum effort when most of the turnovers have occurred. On Saturday, running back Wayne Gallman was running hard when he was smacked by an NC State safety in the open field, knocking him senseless for a few seconds, which caused him to drop the football.

“That was the first fumble he has had in a long time, this year. He hardly ever puts the ball on the ground,” Swinney said. “That was a great hit. That was a great hit by him.”

Wide receiver Mike Williams was trying to get extra yardage when the defender stripped the football from his hands down near the NC State goal line. The other two … a pick-six thrown by quarterback Deshaun Watson to start the second half, while running back Tyshon Dye fumbled the ball trying to score from the one yard line.

“It’s crazy! I really don’t have an answer for it,” Swinney said. “But the name of the game is winning and they keep finding a way to win. Certainly, we know what we are capable of doing if we can do a better job in that area. Just look at what we did at Boston College last week. We had zero turnovers on offense and we had a dominate performance with all three phases together.

“The only thing I can say is that we have been a strong football team and we have been able to overcome that and that’s really the only reason. We have been a talented enough team that we have been able to overcome those mistakes, but that is not the formula usually for success and we have to get that turned around. That is for sure.”

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