For a football team that has talked so much recently about redemption, vindication and validation - a team just a year removed from a bowl performance widely described as a 'debacle' and two weeks removed from a lackluster performance that left South Carolina reigning again as state champion - Clemson's Tigers apparently didn't make much of their first opportunity to get back on practice field on Saturday.
"It's not like we went out there and were just awful, but it was nowhere near the standard that I expect if we're going to play at the level we all want to play out," said Dabo Swinney after the Tigers' first pre-bowl session. "They were sloppy. I was pretty disappointed in the first day, to be honest with you."
A day earlier, quarterback Tajh Boyd - the team's unquestioned leader and the player in best position to gauge the team's pulse - gave a somewhat troubling assessment of the Tigers' performance in their loss to South Carolina.
"It's one of those deals - we have to be mentally in tune the whole game," Boyd said. "There’s no room to wander off. We have to be ready to compete the whole game. That’s what it takes. We had a great week of practice and we didn’t come out and execute as well as we needed to...
“When you looked on the other sideline, as the fourth quarter started, guys were excited, hopping up and down. On our sideline, it was ‘All right, fourth quarter, emotional game.’ You have to play with technique and physicality, but you also have to play with emotion.
“I think (South Carolina) was a little more psyched up. I have to do a better job of that. You have to play calm and poised, but you have to have an edge about you. That’s something I have to make sure I do as I gather up the team.”
On Saturday, the Tigers' next step wasn't the one Swinney was hoping to see.
He was disappointed, but hardly shocked.
"The first thing you do is take this 9 1/2-10," he said, looking down at his shoe, "and (kick them) in the rear. Everybody needs a little motivation sometimes.
"Young people don't just automatically focus. That's called coaching, and that's part of our job. I assure you we had a nice session after practice today. We're going to get it out of them, one way or the other. They have no choice."
Swinney assigned blame for the Tigers' malaise to "a few guys."
"There were a lot of guys who did a great job," he said. "But in a team setting it doesn't take but a few to be a distraction and bring you down. We had a little bit of that today."
Swinney said that what happened on Saturday is less important than what happens next.
"This is a big week for us - a huge week," he said. "There's a lot going on, with coaches and players, and we've got a lot to balance. Players have finals, and we have to balance our practice schedule and meeting times around those finals. And we've still got a lot of recruiting going on.
"It's very important that between now and next Saturday that we get a lot done - not just fundamentally and technically, but a lot done toward LSU as well. When we get back out here next Saturday, there will be no distractions, no school, nobody here, and we can basically have a week of camp to get our plan set.
"When we leave practice on the 21st, we need to have our plan. You don't want to leave any of that until you get to the bowl site, because once you get there, there's a lot going on. You just want to polish and focus on executing at a high level.
"I was glad to get back on the field and get started, but we've got a lot of work to do...It's going to take a lot better focus and a lot better energy than I saw today."