That’s the way Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney described his team’s 28-26 victory over Texas A&M during his Sunday night teleconference call with the media.
The Tigers, who remained ranked No. 2 in both the Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday, survived a fierce rally by Texas A&M in the fourth quarter when safety K’Von Wallace intercepted Kellen Mond’s two-point attempt at tying the game with 46 seconds to play.
Mond threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-40 passing, while the Aggies totaled 501 yards overall. It’s the most yards allowed by the Clemson defense in nearly two years.
“The bad news is we made a lot of mistakes that really could have cost us,” Swinney said. “The good news is we made a lot of mistakes and we still won on the road. So, I think that is a positive. I think our experience, leadership, perseverance, the poise, that was all on display.
“I thought our effort was tremendous. We played very, very hard. We did not always play smart. One of our parts for excellence here ‘is effort with technique.’ That’s what leads to execution and we did play with great effort, but our technique was not always what it needed to be.”
Saturday night’s win at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas reminded Swinney a lot of the Tigers’ trip to Auburn to start the 2016 season. Clemson held off a late Auburn rally that night, knocking down a Hail Mary pass in the end zone on the final play of the game.
“We opened up there, nine o’clock kick, GameDay and all of that stuff again,” Swinney said. “We had an opportunity to put them away. I think we dropped three touchdown passes in that game. That is kind of what I was thinking about watching this game on tape.
“We had some opportunities to really get control of the game and we did not do that. Offensively, we have to take advantage of the opportunities.”
The Tigers (2-0) had a chance to go up by three scores just before halftime when they faced fourth-and-one at the A&M one. However, Kelly Bryant fumbled the snap and the Aggies took over at their own four.
It wasn’t just the offense. The Tigers did not finish on defense either.
After dominating the first half, holding the Aggies to 97 yards of total offense, Clemson gave up 404 yards and 23 points in the second half, most of it coming in the fourth quarter after the Tigers took a two-touchdown lead.
“We have to play four quarters,” Swinney said. “We basically had a two-touchdown lead going into the fourth quarter and we played about as good of a first half that you can play, but we just did not finish.”
Swinney said the defense, in particular the secondary, had way too many bust, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
“We are not a great team yet. Great teams improve, and I think we will. So, we have a lot to correct, teach and evaluate and coach on this week. I’m excited about being 2-0 and having an opportunity to improve.”
Injury notes: Swinney said the Tigers came out of the A&M game in great shape from an injury standpoint. However, he did update the injury status of tight end Garret Williams, who did not play on Saturday.
“They actually cleared him to go last night during pregame, but we ended up holding him,” Swinney said. “He banged his knee up last week… And so, we didn’t think he was going to be able to go, but they actually cleared him, but they did not get him in the game. But hopefully he’ll be able to roll this week.”
The Tigers host Georgia Southern next Saturday at Death Valley. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.