By Trey McCurry.
With its big win last Saturday over NC State, Clemson travels down to Florida State to take on the Seminoles in what has turned into a huge battle in the ACC Atlantic Division.
“We are coming off a good win and moving on to the biggest game of the year for us,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “Our focus is on getting better and finishing as strong as we can. That is all we control. For us to be able to do that, we have to put together a complete game on the road. We are 0-for-3 on the road and this is frustrating to deal with. We have had a lead in the fourth quarter and we need to win it then.”
“Florida State is a good team. Their offense is the best we have played. They do a great job with a lot of misdirection and play action. They moved the ball well on us last year and the only thing that hurt them were their turnovers. They lead the league in third downs. Ponder is a very good player and has played a lot of ball. Their offensive line is outstanding and, as always, they have excellent skill players. We have to affect the quarterback, stop the run, and do good on third downs. We need to eliminate the big plays and make them earn it, especially in the redzone.”
“Defensively, they are very different from what we have seen in years past. They are playing more zone and not blitzing quite as much. Coach Stoops has done a good job. They are very talented. They get a lot of pressure with just a four-man rush and lead the nation in sacks as a team. They win a lot of 1-on-1 matchups. Offensively, we need KP to play at a high level and everyone has to keep their composure. Special teams will also be a factor with both teams and the kicking situation is critical.”
Speaking of kicking, the Tigers woes continued last week as Richard Jackson missed two field goals before being replaced by Chandler Catanzaro on the final PAT. Tiger kickers have missed the past four field goal attempts going back to the first quarter of the Boston College game. “We will let them compete all week and name a starter on Thursday. They got off to a good start last night. Two were 5-for-5 and one was 4-for-5. “
Another question asked of Swinney was the Tajh Boyd situation at quarterback. “We want to involve him when we can. He had a couple of series last week. He had a fumble on one series but then took us on another drive that was killed by a holding call. But we can’t say enough about KP and how well he played.”
A key aspect for Saturday’s game in Tallahassee will be the matchup between the Tigers offensive line and the defensive line for the Seminoles. “Our line has played very well. They are the most consistent group on the team. You will win some battles and lose some. Saturday KP had some times when he had all day protection wise, but we had some trouble on a few play action plays where they got to us at the end of the half. On the flip side, Florida State has a ton of sacks. They had a bunch in a couple of games. They are winning a lot of 1-on-1’s at the line of scrimmage. They aren’t selling out, they are just winning battles.”
Swinney closed with talking about all the up-and-downs for the team this year. “Our guys have done a good job of going back to work regardless of what someone might say or write. This is a team and we are building a program. They just hang in there. It has been a tough year, but we have been in position to win every game. The 3 losses on the road have really hurt us. We have shown consistency on how we battled everyone. That is a good sign. If you look around the country you see some teams blow someone out and then get blown out. We just have to get better. We don’t play smart every week. We are making a lot of progress for the long term. If we continue to battle win or lose good things are ahead for these guys and the program.”
Clemson, winners of five of the past seven meetings with the Seminoles, looks for its only its second win in Tallahassee since 1990 in Saturday’s primetime matchup.