Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his weekly Sunday teleconference to review the Tigers’ 37-34 win over Florida State, update injuries and look ahead to the upcoming game against Syracuse. A transcript of the teleconference follows:
What a fun team to grade. Big win obviously. Proud of our guys. Incredible hard-fought game on both sides. I thought both teams played with a great will to win, and for our guys to overcome the adversity, find a way to win and win it at their place is something pretty special. But still a lot of room for improvement of things that we can coach from. We didn’t play a perfect game, but I can’t say enough about the heart and toughness of these guys. We just continue to find ways to win in difficult situations. 12th-ranked team at their place, to watch us do the things that we needed to do when we need to in critical situations is pretty impressive.
Defensively, I really thought we played hard. Biggest issue was we gave up three long runs obviously and just didn’t set the edge. We got a little thick and got a little heavy. It was three different guys at three different times where we didn’t quite set the edge on the perimeter, and you’ve got to do that those against those backs. That No. 4 (Dalvin Cook), you let him get around the edge and he can take it to the house obviously. But outside of those three big runs, we did a pretty good job against the run all night. But when you look at the statistics there, we’re really fortunate to overcome it. And then the penalties cost us — several pass interferences — so those were the two big things. But they continued to battle, and when we had to have the stop, that last stop was awesome. We pressured the quarterback well. He was less than 50 percent. We got back on track on third down defensively. 10 tackles for loss, and then again the sacks. Created a nice turnover. Great job by Jadar on that play. We had several guys get banged up, but guys stepped in and did a solid job. Again a lot of room for improvement, and there’s some things we can learn from and challenge our guys with this tape as we move forward.
Offensively, 511 yards of offense. Threw for 378 and were 27-of-43. A lot of good things. Clutch drives, red zone we got back on track. We were 5-of-5 in the red zone and converted some big fourth downs. We didn’t fumble the ball. That was a big emphasis, taking care of the ball. Obviously Deshaun had the two interceptions, but a lot of good things. I thought our offensive line played really hard. They didn’t give up one sack — we had four total, but only one was on the offensive line. Three of them were not on those guys, but we missed a couple of opportunities in the game for sure. We had some critical penalties and a couple of busts that were just menatal errors at some critical times, but when we had to have it we were able to go down and get the drives together. A lot of big plays by a lot of guys. Proud of them for how they competed.
Special teams, one of our best games. We made a lot of plays on defense the other day, we made a lot of plays on offense the other day, but I thought we made the difference in special teams. Three big field goals. I thought our protection was tremendous. We pinned them inside the 20 twice. They had zero return yards on the punt team, and our kickoff coverage was awesome. Just tremendous. Pleased with what we’re doing in that area.
A good win for us. Good to be 8-0 and glad to get back at it here at home this week. We have another big challenge coming up with Syracuse. They’ve had an open date and a little extra time to prepare for us, so we have a lot of work to do on our end.
Players of the Game
Offense – Jordan Leggett
Defense – Clelin Ferrell
Special teams – Greg Huegel and Chad Smith
We came through it pretty good. Had a few guys a little banged up here and there. Marcus (Edmond’s) toe was bothering him. Trayvon (Mullen) kind of rolled his ankle on the first kickoff. Jadar (Johnson) had a little calf strain. We’ll evaluate a little bit further tomorrow, but none of them appear to be real serious.
Question: How much of a luxury is it to have Greg Huegel, who is 11-of-13 on the season now, went 3-for-3 last night and made the clutch kick at the end?
We really haven’t had to kick many long field goals this year for whatever reason. We moved the ball quite well, but he’s very capable. I’m proud of him. It’s great to have a guy back with experience. Last year he was a freshman, and he’s done a great job with the kickoffs, too. He’s been a pretty consistent guy in kicking the ball where we need him to, for one, and then also with his touchbacks. So, just a good year for him to this point.
Question: What have you seen from Syracuse under its first-year head coach Dino Babers?
Syracuse is going to be a big challenge. Like I said they’ve had an extra week. We’ve never played anybody that plays as fast as they do. I think they’ve got the leading receiver in the country. We’re just kind of getting into them right now, but playing with a lot of confidence offensively, quarterback’s playing well, they have a million run-pass option type of plays built into what they do, so they’re very good. Dino’s done a great job. They’ve got a true identity, and they believe in what they’re doing. You can tell that those kids have all bought into it. And then defensively, they’ve improved all year long from the beginning of the season to where they are now. They’ve gotten better and better. Just initial look at them, a lot of movement and they’re hardly every sitting in one spot. But it’s going to be a big challenge for us. We’re looking forward to the matchup and glad we’ve got them here at home.
Question: What did you think of the pass interference calls, were they initiating more contact from what you saw?
It was just a lot of competitive plays. We knew that they were going to take a lot of shots, max-protect and put the ball up. The one that Cordrea (Tankersley) had, we had two guys down there. Those are some bang-bang plays, competitive plays. We’re in position and made some, we’ve just got to clean up some of our technique. But I think they called five pass interferences on us. But disappointed with the big plays and the penalties. They really kind of kept them in the game. The long runs and several pass interference calls, so we’ve just got to do a better job and clean up some of the technique when those competitive plays present themselves, winning them and doing it with the right technique. But some of those go against you, some of those go for you.