Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his weekly teleconference Sunday night where he discussed the loss to NC State, injuries and looked ahead to the showdown with South Carolina.
Well, obviously really disappointed after watching the tape. Not a lot of rocket science going on right now we are a team that are finding lots of ways to beat ourselves. We have had 11 turnovers in three games. We are fortunate we only lost two of them. We had six turnovers total in eight games. Now we have had 11 in three games. It has been different type of stuff. It really comes down to execution. Really we have to get these guys dialed in and get back to some basics.
I was really disappointed offensively. Defensively it was the best first quarter we have played since the Virginia Tech game. We really came out ready to go. We forced eight punts. We had four three and outs. Again we had a great first quarter. It was 3-0 with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter. Then all of a sudden they get the ball on the six, 18 and 11. We really didn’t give them much of a chance. But again I like how they started the game, just disappointed in how we performed offensively and in special teams. Turnovers, field position, penalties, sacks those are things that get you beat and always will.
We have to get our guys dialed back in. We have to refocus them on our goals. Whether we were 11-0 right now or sitting here at 9-2 where we are, none of that would matter this week. That doesn’t have anything to do with these four quarters we are getting ready to play against South Carolina. To me this is the best time of year. We have a lot in front of us. Our goals are still intact. You want to win them all but in the couple of games we lost we have not played very well. Fortunately we have a lot of games to study where we have played well. We have to get our confidence back and get them focused on what you have to do to win.
I am excited about this game. It is the biggest game of the year. It is an exciting opportunity for both teams to get their tenth win. Again we have everything right here in front of us. They only thing we know about our football team right now is we are not a national championship team. That doesn’t mean we can’t be a very good team when this thing is all said and done and that is my focus. We are going to learn from this one. We are going to flush it and then we are going to move on.
Q. What is the update on injuries?
We have several guys that are banged up. The biggest question right now is Phillip Price still. He did run today so I am anxious to get that report. We will know a little bit more tomorrow. He is my biggest question mark.
Martavis Bryant with his neck is probably the next biggest question mark to me. Other than that I think most everybody else will be ready to go. Landon looked pretty good today. Brandon Thomas looked pretty good today. We just have some other guys that have some maintenance type of injuries.
Sammy, hopefully we will get him back in pads by Tuesday.
Q. What is the key to getting running game going?
It is execution. I know if you came and watched the tape with you it would make you want to throw up. You have a bunch of guys that are doing some good things then we are having some breakdowns in some critical situations. We have to be able to run the football and then the turnovers. Don’t get down 27-3 in a matter of ten minutes. That starts again by taking care of the football. We have to make better decisions. We are not making good decisions with the ball. Tajh is doing some things that he has not done. He has to go back and execute the base things. He is keeping it when he should give it and he is giving it when he should keep it. Just need to make the right decision and that is something he has done a good job with all year. He did not do a good job of that last night. Again it is a game that got way out of hand and we did not get the momentum back. We played poorly, but at the end of the day we are not a 5-6 football team. We are a 9-2 team and we have to get these guys back focused on doing things the right way so we can get the results that everybody wants to have.
Q. How much did having Price out hurt the running game?
Well Phillip Price is a starter for a reason. He has probably been as good a lineman as we have had all year. Brandon had a few missed assignments and breakdowns, but he came back and did a few good things as well. It definitely was a factor but they have to be ready to play. We practice all week and we just didn’t have quite the attention to detail with a couple of those guys up front. Brandon is a guy that has not played a lot of tackle but he certainly knows what he is suppose to do and just didn’t execute. He just didn’t play as well as he is capable of. It is not a matter of can he do it. He can do it. We just have to really be dialed in and have the sense of urgency that we need.
Q. It seems like the season might be at a crossroads. Do you think this one of the most critical games in your coaching career?
One of the most critical games in my coaching career? Well I think they are all critical to be honest with you. Obviously when you are coaching for a living every game is critical. Ultimately you are judged on wins and losses. So they are all big but this is a big game for our season because it is an opportunity for us to achieve our next goal. It is the biggest game of the year. It is our in-state rival. It is a game that is incredibly important to this team. It is incredibly important to our fans. It is a big, big game, no doubt.
Q. After last night did you look at the scores of the teams in the BCS that were ahead of you that also lost?
No, that is a waste of time to think about what could have been. That is all water under the bridge. We have to take care of business. The only thing we know about this team is we are not a national championship team. That is all we know. That is the only thing we know. If we were a national championship team we would have beat Georgia Tech and NC State. Right now we are a 9-2 football team. That is what we are. We are the Atlantic Division champions and we have certainly earned that. What we are going forward, we will find out. There is still a lot out there for us.
Q. Do the next couple of games have a chance to change the direction of the program?
Absolutely, again this is my third year into this thing. The first year we won our division which was a great accomplishment especially with the personnel, a freshman quarterback. We had not done that. That was a huge hurdle. We didn’t finish the way we would like to and take that next step. Absolutely it is a great opportunity for us to build some momentum for our program. Any time you play for a championship, a state championship and an ACC championship and win them absolutely it is great positive momentum for your program. That is what we are focused on doing.