Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney participated in the ACC’s weekly Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday with the media that cover the ACC. A transcript of the teleconference follows:
DABO SWINNEY: Good to be with you today. Obviously for us, coming off a disappointing game, a hard-fought, tough loss against a good Pitt team that came in here and really played a heck of a game. So for us, trying to get back on track this week, try to correct some of our mistakes and play a little better.
We know we’ve got a big challenge. Got a great opportunity, an opportunity to win the division which is really our next goal and has been all year long is to try to win the division, and we have an opportunity to do that. We know it’s going to be a big challenge to play Wake Forest in third place, night game, team that really is much, much improved.
Coach Clawson has done a fantastic job. They’re 6-4, and have competed and played everybody very, very tough. So it’s going to be a big challenge, but we’re looking forward to being able to get back out there and play again. Whenever you lose a game, you can’t wait to go play again. So I like the response from our guys this week, and looking forward to the trip up there and see if we can find a way to win.
Q. The committee does not incentivize margin of victory when it’s assessing team’s resumés. What do you think about that approach?
DABO SWINNEY: You’re talking about margin of victory? I don’t think that makes any sense. There’s a lot of things that can determine margin of victory. At the end of the day you either win the game or you lose the game. That’s really what matters. I don’t think any of the rest of the stuff is important. It could be weather. It could be you play on the road, you play at home, injuries of the teams at the time. There’s a lot of stuff that can determine victory.
I think the best determination or determining factor is did you win or lose?
Q. How much time do your quarterbacks or backup quarterbacks or personnel spend practicing sending signals on to the field? And do you think sign stealing is an ethical question in college football or just part of the game?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, we practice every day with signals, so that’s just, even defensively, that’s how we practice. We huddle on the sideline, but the rest of the time everything is sign language and signals and all that. As far as getting signals from other opponents, I think that’s just part of the game, always has been. It’s the other team’s job to not let you know if it’s run or pass. That’s just kind of part of the game. That’s why you see so many different ways to signal.
Like for us, we’ve got multiple signallers and multiple codes and things like that. So it’s just communication. I mean, you’re in a battle out there. You’re in a competition and you’re competing, you want to get every edge that you can. If you have an opponent who is basically screaming out, hey, we’re running the ball, well, that’s an advantage. It’s just part of the game, and deception is part of the game as well. So, just, that’s really my answer.
Q. What do you want to see better from your defense this week, and what concerns do you see when you look at Wake Forest’s defense on film?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, for us defensively, obviously, we did not play very well last week. But just get back to who we’ve been all year. We’ve been a very good defense, and a very consistent defense. Last week we didn’t play well and Pitt played outstanding. They did a great job.
For us, as far as getting back and playing with the type of eye discipline that is required and the technique that we have to have. I mean, our effort was good, we just didn’t play very disciplined. So didn’t have the technique at times and didn’t do some of the things that we needed to do to help them as well. So just getting back at it, and getting flushing that out and getting back to who we are.
Q. What concerns you about Wake Forest’s defense this year?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, Wake Forest defense is very good. First of all, they do a great job pressuring the quarterback, and they have all year. We’ve got 35 sacks to lead the conference, and I think they’ve got 32. So they’re second or third in the league in sacks. That’s first and foremost. Then the next thing is they have done an unbelievable job of creating turnovers, and a great job of taking care of the football there. So they’re plus nine on the turnover margin on the year, which is by far and away leading this league.
So they’ve done a great job creating fumbles and interceptions and pressuring that quarterback. So it’s a good team. They’ve got some guys that can play, man. They’ve got several guys that can play here. I mean, that No. 53 they’ve got is a great football player. Big, long, athletic, he’s Top 10 in the nation in sacks. So definitely a big challenge for us. They’ve got a safety that’s second in the league in interceptions. They understand their scheme and they’ve, as I said earlier, they’ve competed and battled with everyone all year long.
Q. Coach, even after the loss, you still control your own destiny in terms of winning the ACC and beyond. Is it just a matter of refocusing, hard work, and keeping the mantra, win one game at a time?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, absolutely. Our guys know that. We never want to lose. That’s never anything that we want to do. But sometimes you get beat. We got beat. So now what are we going to do about it? Really nothing has changed for us. Had we won the game, we’d still be fighting to try to get better and try to improve. Wes still would have had a lot of mistakes to correct and learn from. But we’ve earned where we are. After ten games, one of our goals — our goal wasn’t to be 10-0 — our goal was to be the best we can be and we wanted to be in the hunt. And where we are, hey, we’re still in control of our destiny. We’re definitely in the hunt. We have an opportunity to win our division. That’s our focus.
If we can continue to stay locked in on what’s directly in front of us like we always do, bigger opportunities can come from that. But, it all goes back to just having a great day today. And having a great practice today. And trying to play a great game this weekend. That’s been our mentality here for a long time.
I’m proud of how the guys have competed all year, and again, just trying to be the best that we can be.
Q. After watching the film and not taking anything away from Pittsburgh last Saturday, could your players look at that game and say Clemson beat Clemson?
DABO SWINNEY: We definitely know what we did wrong and what we can do better. But, hey, Pittsburgh won that game. Definitely don’t want to take anything away from them. I tip my hat to them. This is a tough place to play. We’ve lost very, very few games here, and it came down to one play. It came down to the last play, and they made the play.
There were several opportunities for us to win the game. So you can look at it however you want to. It really doesn’t matter. Bottom line is they competed their tails off and played a heck of a ballgame, and they deserved to win it.
Q. Do you think the referees are treating Ben Boulware’s aggressiveness differently than the rest of the players on the field?
DABO SWINNEY: You know, it doesn’t — I mean, sometimes you get calls that you agree with, and sometimes you get calls that you don’t agree with. But Ben’s got to continue to be who he’s always been. He’s not a rookie. He’s not a freshman. He’s ape senior football player that’s been around here a long time. I love Ben Boulware. I love how he plays the game. If somebody thinks something he does is a penalty, then they’re going to call it. You just keep playing. It really doesn’t matter other than that. Those are, again, judgment calls and you live with them.