By Will Vandervort
Dabo Swinney understands his team is feeling down after losing to Florida State, 51-14, Saturday night. Clemson, who fell to No. 9 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Sunday, was simply beat up in every which way in the first ever battle of top 5 teams in Death Valley history.
“They played late into the night Sunday and came up short in a game they wanted to win,” Swinney said during his Sunday evening teleconference. “They wanted to win and they wanted to play better.”
There is no question Clemson played its worse game since the 2012 Orange Bowl. The Tigers turned the football over four times, were penalized seven times for 96 yards, dropped several passes, missed tackles and did just about every other bad thing that can happen on a football field.
“I wish I could explain why all of sudden a few things happen that have not been characteristic of your football team, but that is competition,” Swinney said. “Unfortunately, it does not always go the way we want it to.
“We have to learn from it and we have to challenge each other as coaches and we have to challenge the team and the leadership and you go back out there and you get back at the things that you believe in. You focus on trying to win this game. That’s the only way to fix it. When you get knocked down, you are not going to lay down. I guess you could, but that is just not how we think. We are going to get ourselves back up and go back to work.”
The Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) have to get back to work in a hurry as they travel to Byrd Stadium and play Maryland. The Terrapins are also reeling following a loss to Wake Forest this past weekend and have lost two of their last three games.
But Clemson needs to worry about itself, first, and try proving that its loss to FSU was just a bump in the road and isn’t going to be the norm.
“We are going to go up there and try to play the very best game that we can. That’s what we have to focus on,” Swinney said.
To do that, Clemson will need its senior leader at quarterback to show his big smile, again. Tajh Boyd tried to hold his head up high when talking to reporters following the game, but it was difficult to smile knowing his shot at the Heisman Trophy and a second straight ACC Player of the Year honor are now gone.
After being so dominant for much of the year, Florida State’s Jamarcus Joyner and the Seminoles defense made him look average at best. Boyd had a pedestrian-like 156 passing yards on 17 of 37 passes, while being intercepted two times. He also fumbled once, which resulted in a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“He will be the first one to tell you that he is not very happy with the way he played. It certainly was not one of his better games,” Swinney said. “That’s disappointing because it was a great opportunity because you always want to play your best every time you go out there. You never want to play bad.
“He did not have his best game, but I would not trade him for anybody. Tajh Boyd has done some great things for this program and has made huge plays in big moments. He did not have a great night last night, but if I know Tajh Boyd, he will bounce back with a great performance this week.”
And he will do it healthy, too. Though a little sore this morning, Swinney said Boyd’s right ankle is fine as well as defensive tackle DeShawn Williams. Both of them will be available to play this coming Saturday at Maryland.