Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had plenty to say on his Monday teleconference with the media.
A transcript of the teleconference follows:
“I am really proud of our team. That was a heck of a ballgame. It was tough, physical. I am just proud of our mental toughness, our courage and fight and will to win, our perseverance and our believe especially when you don’t play your best game, you have a turnover and a lot of mistakes. But the intangibles that it takes to win it was just good to be able to see that in this team.
We really hadn’t had any adversity to this point. It has been a tough September. Coming in I knew we had a young team and really felt like probably it would be Texas A&M, maybe at Syracuse early in our season but we really hadn’t had much adversity. And all of a sudden you are on the road and you know it is coming somewhere along the way this season but it happened the other night. We got in a little bit of a fist fight and we outlasted them. I can’t overstate how proud I am of our guys. We certainly made a lot of mistakes and have so much to improve but we found a way to win and we are 5-0 after a tough September. There are a lot of positives that we can build on, especially having a game like that and you find a way to win it.
If they had made the two point conversion we would have still had the same mistakes. I am glad we were able to find a way to win the game and correct from there.
We have to improve our attention to detail. We have been losing the turnover margin the last couple of games. It is on all of us to learn from it, get better and just grow.
The bad news is like I said the other day I thought they outplayed us. We made a lot of mistakes that could have cost us the game. The good news is we made a lot of mistakes that could have cost us the game and we still won on the road. That is a great quality for a team to have so I am super proud of that.
We are 5-0 and our best football is in front of us. This will be a game that will help us grow and I think it is great for our quarterback too. If you think about it Trevor has had zero adversity since he has been at Clemson, 20 games. He hadn’t had any. He didn’t play a whole lot against Texas A&M last year and he was playing well for a quarter and a half against Syracuse and he got knocked out of the game. And then when he came back I think we won every game by 20 plus including the playoff and the national championship. He really hadn’t had any adversity and he made a lot of plays but he also made some mistakes. So it was kind of…
I learned a lot about Trevor that I thought I knew but I really hadn’t seen it on game day because the situation really hadn’t presented itself in 20 games. But he had to make some big plays. I thought his leadership was tremendous. He was trying to lead that defense. Never pouting or anything like that, just a lot of mental toughness. I just thought he was gutsy. Some times you may not play your best but when you can find a way to win I think that says a lot about your moxy and who you are. There were a lot of things that I knew but again I hadn’t seen him with a game on the line in the fourth quarter since he came to Clemson. So I think that is something that he can definitely grow for sure.
Again a lot of mistakes offensively. We made some critical plays when we had to have it for sure. I thought Tee Higgins played outstanding. We were pretty good on third down. I was just very disappointed with the 3rd and 1 and the fumble. We did not communicate well, critical penalties. I thought we had poor situational awareness a couple of times. We missed a couple of easy wide open throws, one for a touchdown. I didn’t think we protected well. At running back we did not protect our quarterback well. We had 12 men on the field coming off the sideline one time. Again just missed opportunities. We had a receiver that probably was going to run for about 50 yards and he just fell down after the catch. Again OL, just too many penalties and communication issues. Just not a very clean game. We just did a poor job.
And the flip side defensively we did some things that we hadn’t done. We had a bad start. The game kind of went the way they needed it to. They milked the clock. They were able to get just enough big plays. They needed a big play touchdown. We missed too many tackles. Our third quarter was tremendous. I thought we played a great third quarter. We had three sacks. a couple of TFLs. We did a good job on third down. Obviously the two point play was the play of the game but the fourth quarter was horrible. They had the ball for 11 minutes and 3 seconds. We take the lead and they go 75 yards to tie it. The offense turns it over and we had not been giving up points off turnovers and they run a power play for 30 something yards. So we just didn’t compliment each other well. We did not I thought communicate presnap very well defensively either. With just recognition presnap so we could get the right alignment.
It was just a pretty sloppy game really on both sides of the ball.
Special teams our kickoff return was outstanding. Will Spiers he was our special teams player of the game, him and Ngata. Simmons was our defensive player of the game. He was outstanding and then offensively it was Tee Higgins.
We did a lot of good things, almost blocked a punt, kickoff coverage continues to be good. We did miss the field goal. I am disappointed that we did not field the ball correctly on punt return. We got an offsides penalty on our punt team. It is something we have to look at there that they were doing to draw us offsides. Just a lot of little things that we have to clean up.
The open date really is coming at a good time. It is a chance for us to rest a little bit, get healthy, get a head start on Florida State, self scout on ourselves and then go apply it and get ready for the second half. Every day is critical at this point.
I think the guys are in good spirits. Again I am really proud of the win and the leadership that we have on this team.
We are in pretty good shape. Tanner Muse strained his hamstring and a couple of other just dings and dungs but I think come Monday we should have everybody in practice.
Question: How did the team take the accountability film session today and did they take it the way you hoped they would?
Swinney: “Oh yeah absolutely, absolutely. It was just a normal Monday for us. We had a senior meeting. The only thing that happened was we had a power outage. We were in the dark (laughing) so we had to…That was a little different but we were able after a little while to get back to the meeting. It was great because again a lot of good things but we have a lot we have to improve. We have had four pretty good games and then all of a sudden you hit a little bit of adversity and we have to really learn from it. We are fortunate to win the game and thankful that we won the game. It is so much more fun to correct with a win than to lose the game. But the guys are great. We have a lot of self-awareness on this team. I think that is important.
The same thing with us coaches. We are not perfect coaches and we don’t have perfect players. I think self-awareness, accountability and ownership are very important. We have always had that in our program. So today was a day of praise and loving them up about the unbelievable win, an awesome win. Most teams lose that game.
But then how do we get better. When we start going through the mistakes and things that we have to get fixed it is pretty easy to get everybodies attention on what we have to do.”
Question: You talked about a lot of mental mistakes. Is there anything you can point to? Is that the most you can remember from your team in a while?
Swinney: “Yeah it is the most in a while. Like I said we had a lot in those other games but the games weren’t close. It has been a while. I don’t remember a game where we had that many penalties, critical penalties and a couple of times where I thought our situational awareness wasn’t very good. Defensively we didn’t fit some things right. We didn’t release properly. We left some gaps open and missed some tackles. No. 8 gave up a big play because his eyes were bad and his technique was poor. Some things that we don’t normally do. And all of a sudden those things can kind of catchup with you when they start piling up. And the next thing you know you are in a dog fight. We are a better team than North Carolina and the best team won the game but we did not play anywhere near to our ability.
First of all you have to give them credit. I thought those kids fought their butts off. They competed with everything they had and had a good plan. As far was what they were trying to do, containing us, milking the clock and things like that. We kind of played into their hands a little bit with some of the mistakes that we control. They made some great plays too so I don’t want to take anything away from them. But everybody we play is going to make some plays. But I am more focused on the things that we control. Because your alignments, your presnap issues, situational awareness, penalties. Those are things that can add up quickly, especially when they are happening on third and one.
Question: I know you said they played a lot of cover two. I wondered what you thought of the push the offensive line got in the running game when they were playing a lot of cover two?
Swinney: Yeah they did a pretty good job for the most part. We had a couple of communication issues but we ran the ball for I think four yards a carry. But we had some negative plays that took away from it. They played a lot of four man. They played a little cover two but four man with the safeties coming down. They tried to get an extra man in the box whether it be cat in the corner or spinning the safety when they recognized the run. They were trying to take away some things over the middle off our RPO game. But we had some really good things. If you look at some of our drives. We had seven plays, ten plays, nine plays and we would come away with nothing. Just like the fumble. It was a nine yard gain, five yard gain, first down, fumble. So just efficiency. Not in rhythm, not efficient like we need to be and it was all across the board. It wasn’t any one thing. They did a pretty good job for the most part.
Question: Can you point to a moment where you learned something about Trevor that you haven’t seen last year?
Swinney: Yeah, the fourth quarter. I have never seen him with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. I mean not where it is down to the last second. Third and six and he has to make a play late in the fourth quarter to put us up. It was awesome.