By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — The main thing Dabo Swinney was disappointed with when he went back and watched a replay of Saturday’s 49-37 loss to No. 4 Florida State was his team’s inability to bounce back and refocus once the Seminoles seized the momentum.
After jumping in front, 28-14, with 11:48 to play in the third quarter, Clemson imploded as missed tackles, penalties, poor execution, a turnover and poor kick coverage allowed the Seminoles to outscore the Tigers 35-3 at one point. When Clemson finally did get itself back together, it was too late, the damage was done.
“We did not handle the storm when it came,” Swinney said during his teleconference Sunday evening.
Now the Tigers, who dropped to No. 16 and No. 17 in the latest Coaches and Associated Press Top 25 polls, have to bounce back quickly from the letdown in Tallahassee as they get set for a Boston College team that had last week off and is playing with a lot of confidence on offense.
“We have not played well up there, but we have to find a way to try and bounce back and get to 4-1 and get back here to the Valley,” Swinney said. “There is a lot of work to do.”
Most of that work has to be done on defense where Clemson (4-1, 0-1 ACC) is coming off the second worst performance from a yardage standpoint in school history. The Tigers allowed 667 total yards to the Seminoles, which was second only to a 2000 defense that gave up 771 yards to FSU down in Tallahassee.
Clemson also gave up 234 yards in returns, including a 90-yard kickoff return and a 30-yard punt return.
“We kind of lit that fire by doing a poor job on the kickoff, and they did a good job of taking advantage of the momentum and just poured gasoline on it,” Swinney said.
Knowing the Tigers have only won once before in Chestnut Hill, Mass.—Swinney’s interim year as head coach in 2008—the Clemson coach knows it will be important for his team to wash what happened in the Florida State game away and get focused on the task at hand, which is beating Boston College.
“We are not a great team in September, but we possibly could be in November. I mean, it’s a long year,” Swinney said. “There are plenty of examples out there for that. We just got beat by a very good team at their place… I think our guys understand that we have a chance to be a good football team if we keep improving.
“We are a ways away from that right now because we have a lot of guys that we have to continue to coach. There is a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching and a lot of correcting every single day with some of these guys, but we are going to get there. I don’t have any doubt about it. We have to do a great job as coaches to make sure (the FSU) game doesn’t beat us again.”
To do that, Clemson will have to play better, especially on defense where, right now, there does not appear to be any real personnel moves going on.
“We have some guys that have to play better and that have played better,” Swinney said. “We definitely have to challenge a few guys to perform better or else give a few other guys an opportunity.
“We just do not have a lot of depth in the secondary at this very instance. We have some guys that are coming, but they are not quite where we want them to be. We have a couple of these guys that are playing corner that are not playing with a lot of confidence right now,” he continued. “We have to get that confidence back.
“When you play that position, bad things are going to happen from time-to-time so you have to have a very short memory. We have to be a little more aggressive and finish tackles better and compete for the ball better. There are a lot of things we have to improve upon in the secondary. Anything is possible as far as personnel at this point.
“We have played four games. We have a whole season in front of us so we have to go back to work and challenge these guys and hopefully they will respond. If they are what I think they are, they will.”