Dabo Swinney has been coaching football for 27 years. Prior to that he played it for 14 years. So, in the 40-plus years he has been a player and as a coach in the game, he has never been a part of game where one of his teams had three kicks blocked in the same game.
However, there is a first time for everything.
Clemson kicker B.T. Potter, who had not missed a kick all season prior to Saturday night’s win over No. 7 Miami, had three of his kicks blocked in the Tigers’ 42-17 victory at Death Valley. One of those kicks was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Hurricanes’ defensive back DJ Ivey.
“We were really fortunate that we controlled the game in the other two phases. We were able to win in spite of what happened on field goal,” Swinney said. “That is just really disappointing because that has not been the case. It is not what we see in practices, it is not what we have done in a game.”
Swinney said the first and third blocks were blocked by Miami safety Bubba Bolden, who came off the right side to get a piece of both. They were 37 and 33-yard attempts.
The Clemson coach said the breakdown was due to poor execution, technique and fundamentals.
Jared Harrison-Hunte blocked the second kick, a 61-yard attempt by Potter, just before the half. The ball bounced perfectly to Ivey, who scooped it up and return it 48 yards for a Miami touchdown. Swinney said a guard just went down the ground on Harrison-Hunte’s block.
“So, that is on us as coaches. We will get that corrected,” Swinney said. “As a coach, you want to be able to have confidence to put your guys out there and make kicks and be aggressive. We love our kicker. We kicked one fifty-something yards against Wake Forest that would have been good from seventy. We have seen him make a kick like we attempted. He had a big wind behind. I am just really disappointed in our protection there.
“So, we put some bad stuff on tape. We will own it. We will fix it. We will correct it. It is our job as coaches to get that better, sure it up and improve it. Obviously, we have done a poor job teaching what we need it to be there.”
Ngata update. As you know, wide receiver Joseph Ngata missed his third straight game Saturday due to an abdominal strain. For the second straight week the sophomore dressed as if he was going to play, but he was held out after he displayed some discomfort in warmups.
Swinney said they are hopeful Ngata will be able to play next Saturday at Georgia Tech.
“He was close the other day, but again, it has been one of those things he has been aggravating,” Swinney said. “We just kind of went into pre-game to see where he was. I didn’t really want him to play unless he could cut it loose.
“He just wasn’t quite there, but he is better. He is a lot better. Hopefully, this week, he is ready to roll. That is the thing. We are 4-0 and he is as good as we have had here. He really is. This guy is going to be a super star.”
Xavier Thomas update. Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas, who missed all of camp and the first couple of weeks of the season, due to complications from COVID-19 and strep throat, returned to the field late in the Tigers’ win over Miami.
Because the Tigers built such a big lead, it allowed the coaching staff to get the junior on the field to see where he is at as he tries to return to the playing field on a fulltime basis.
“It worked out. It was a perfect situation just to be able to get him out there,” Swinney said. “It was the next step for him. He did not have do a whole lot. It was just a few plays. But, again, just getting in the game and having that sense of the game and the feel of it will, hopefully, carry over well for him in practice this week.
“The next step for him will be to be full go in practice for a whole week and then, hopefully, have more opportunity on Saturday and to keep progression. He is working back in the right direction. So, that is encouraging.”
No hesitation to bring freshman tackle in. In the second quarter, starting left tackle Jackson Carman was flagged for a second holding penalty. At that time, Swinney decided it was time to take Carman out and let him see the game from a different perspective.
Swinney and offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell did not hesitate to bring true freshman Walker Parks into the game.
“There was no hesitation at all. I am proud of that young buck. He graded out really well with the plays he got,” Swinney said. “We knew coming into this season we were going to play a lot of first snaps with that first group and that is why I am glad we were able to get some good snaps in the first two games.
“But I definitely trust Walker. It is important to him. He is a guy that is ahead of the curve when it comes to the mentality of what it takes to prepare week in and week out. So, we are really proud of him. He is kind of like Jackson was when Jackson came in here as a freshman backing up Mitch Hyatt.”
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