By Will Vandervort
When it plays as a complete team, third-ranked Clemson is very difficult to beat. If you need proof, go ask Wake Forest.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the Tigers played their best game of the season in Saturday’s 56-7 victory and the scary thing is they have not even played their best.
“The objective is to win,” he said Sunday during his weekly teleconference with the media “When we put it all together we can be a really good football team.”
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) looked like they put it all together in Saturday’s win. They amassed a season-high 573 yards and scored eight touchdowns on offense—from seven different players—while the defense only allowed 222 total yards, 80 in the second half.
“We are getting better as a team,” Swinney said. “Offensively we had our best game, while defensively we are getting consistent. We are a better team than we were at this time last month and we hope that next month we are better than we are right now.”
What amazed Swinney the most was the way his team played with so many players out. Right tackle Gifford Timothy did not play. Left guard David Beasley played just a few snaps and centers Ryan Norton and Jay Guillermo were treated for dehydration during the game. Then there was left tackle Isaiah Battle, who was suspended for his punch on an opposing player in the NC State game.
Running back Roderick McDowell went down with an ankle injury early in the game and the defense was without linebacker B.J. Goodson.
“We had a lot of good players out,” Swinney said. “You think that might slow us down or hurt us, but we had a lot of young guys step up and take advantage of their opportunity to get more playing time.”
Swinney expects most of the guys mentioned to be back this week when the Tigers put their undefeated record on the line at Syracuse. Only Roderick McDowell is questionable for the game. The training staff will reevaluate him on Monday and then go from there.
However, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins is not likely to play against the Orange. Watkins and his family met with Swinney Sunday evening as he got back from his cousin’s funeral. The Clemson coach said Watkins, who was in a car accident last Saturday, still had a few scabs and scratches and was sore.
“We are just glad to have him back,” Swinney said. “It was good to see him and get him back here. I put my arms around him and gave him a hug. It was nice visiting with him and his family.
“Now that he is back we can start therapy and get him in the ice tube and see how he responds to treatment.”
Excited about Syracuse. Swinney says there should be very little distractions when the Tigers head up to Syracuse this coming week. He said the players should be excited about going to a new place and playing in their famous dome stadium.
The Orange play in the Carrier Dome, which also is used by the men’s basketball team. As for the environment and the normal routine itself, he said that should not be an issue. The biggest adjustment in playing in a domed stadium is getting used to the roof and the lights that are shining down, instead of to the left or right like the sun does when teams play outside.
As for the artificial surface, Clemson practices every day on it with its new indoor practice facility.
“The biggest adjustment is getting used to the background. It is an adjustment, but that’s why we have the new indoor facility,” Swinney said. “That can really help. I know it helped us a lot in getting ready for the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December.”