Monday Morning Quarterback
Dabo Swinney called Saturday’s win over Florida State one of the top 5 wins of his coaching career.
When he said it, it kind of caught me and a few other members of the media by surprise.
Sure, it was a big win. But top 5?
This is a coach who has won two national championships and coached in big-time games. Besides those two national championship victories over Alabama, he has knocked off Ohio State twice in the national semifinals. He has defeated Oklahoma and Notre Dame in two other semifinal matchups.
He also guided the Tigers to an Orange Bowl victory over the Buckeyes and has won seven ACC Championships. He even has a couple of wins over the Seminoles that could classify as top 5 victories.
So why was Saturday’s 30-20 victory over a below average Florida State team so big?
“It was special. It is unbelievable. I can’t put into words what all we have done this year. I mean, I really can’t,” Swinney said after the game. “We just make stuff up along the way.”
In other words, the Tigers are just finding ways to win games. Yes, it has not been pretty, but they find ways to win despite the fact that have suffered through 29 significant injuries, lost 10 players for the season, and have started 43 different players.
Every week in seems like the offensive line has a new lineup, and that might be the case again this coming Saturday against Louisville after center Mason Trotter left the FSU game just before halftime due to a lower leg injury. His status for Saturday’s game at Louisville is questionable, as is right guard Will Putnam and running back Phil Mafah, who also suffered injuries on Saturday.
“It was the way it needed to be,” Swinney said. “There were a lot of mistakes, but it was an unbelievable team win. You saw the foundation of our program tonight. That is what you saw. When you have a great foundation, you can build something great, but you can also withstand adversity and the storm when it comes.
“The foundation of our program is effort. It is toughness. It is physicality. It is an absolute no-quit attitude, and it is an unshakable-does-not-even-make-any-sense type of belief in yourself and in your team. That is the foundation of our program here and it always has been. You saw a team stand on that tonight. You saw that shine through.”
We saw that belief play out in front of our own eyes. The Tigers could have quit after FSU’s Jermain Johnson stripped sacked D.J. Uiagalelei and picked up the loose football and rumbled six yards for a touchdown with 7:39 to play.
After the season Clemson has had to this point, it would have been easy for this team to rollover and quit after Johnson’s fourth-quarter touchdown gave the ‘Noles the lead. And maybe some of the 79,000 fans at Memorial Stadium did quit on the Tigers after that, but the Tigers did not quit.
Instead, they got up off the mat, dusted themselves off and found a way to win the game when no one thought they could.
Yes, they got a little help from FSU, but freshman running back Will Shipley still had to run 21 yards for the go-ahead score, and twice the defense had to stand tall and hold off an FSU team that was not going to quit either.
In other words, it was a big win, and in Swinney’s own words, “It was a top 5 victory.”
“I might have to redo (my list),” he said. “But this one is in there. There is no doubt about that, I am counting all of them. I played in a national championship too. I have a few of those.
“It was just incredible. Again, I have just not been through anything like this, where you are just like, ‘What’s next? What else is going to happen this season?’ But to see these guys hang in there and keep battling and to see out staff do the same thing, it is even sweeter. This was a sweet, sweet night.”
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