As one can imagine, it was a long weekend for the Clemson football program. Before the seventh-ranked Tigers got back to work on Monday, they had to hold the sour taste of defeat in their mouths for two long days after Syracuse outcoached and outplayed them at every level last Friday night in the Carrier Dome.
It’s a position Clemson lately is not accustomed to being in. The loss to the Orange marked just the third one in the last 40 games for the football program and just the 14th since the start of the 2011 season. The Tigers are 76-14 since winning its first ACC Championship under Dabo Swinney seven seasons ago.
“It’s never good to lose,” he said. “I’m glad we built a program here that when we do lose one, you feel like the world has come to an end. That’s the type of program I want to have.”
However, Swinney says it’s important he and his team keep a good perspective during its open week before hosting Georgia Tech on Oct. 28 in Death Valley.
“Our players have been a part of a really, really great run,” he said. “We have won 37 out of the last 40. So I’m thankful that we have not lost many, but we got our butts kicked the other night for sure. We had won 12 road games in a row. So we lost the 13th one. We had won 11 games in a row (overall) and we lost the 12th one.
“So I think it is important to keep perspective, but you also have to be honest and correct (the mistakes) evaluate and move on. The bottom line is we did a poor job. We really did a poor job as coaches and it was just disappointing in really myself and us as a staff in general. We just flat out got our butts kicked.”
Like he did on Friday, Swinney made a point to give Syracuse the proper credit for being the team that came prepared to play and being the team that was prepared to win.
“Everybody is writing the stories about Clemson getting beat and all of that,” he said. “I understand because of where we are, but they just kicked our butt. That needs to be the story … it’s what Syracuse did as opposed to what we did not do.
“Sometimes you just get your butt whipped, and we did. Again, we have not had many of those, but we have to own it for sure. We have to learn from it, grow from it and respond. That’s what you do. You keep moving forward.”
The Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) have a lot to correct during their week off. They had a done of mistakes and missed assignments on both sides of the ball.
They had a season-high 11 penalties for 119 yards. They did not play with discipline on defense at all. They had pass interference penalties, lined up offside, personal foul penalties for late hits on the quarterback and the “inexcusable” unsportsmanlike penalty on Muse after his 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“Those are things and plays that add up,” Swinney said. “It was just a bad night defensively, and really it was just discipline to be honest with you. It was the little things…They just flat out beat us. You learn and grow from it.”
But it was not just the defense. The offense was just 2-for-11 on third down after coming in as one of the best third down teams in the country. They had missed assignments on the offensive line, at wide receiver and at running back.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Swinney said.
Swinney also admitted the kicking game is a major concern. Kicker Alex Spence was just 1-for-3 on field goals, missing from 35 and 39 yards out.
“You have the ball at the 19 and the 21, you expect to come away with points there,” he said. “So we have some improving to do all across the board. I’m thankful that we have an open date right now. We got to get healthy first and foremost, and then again, we have to own it, learn from it and use this hopefully as a stepping stone to have a strong finish.”