In Dabo's Words...
Obviously we're a better football team than how we played tonight, and you know, it is what it is. The season is over, and the biggest thing I said in there is that I love them, and we've got to live with this the whole off-season. They'll play again in September, those guys that are coming back. This is certainly not the finish that we wanted. Just too many mistakes.
“I talked to our seniors in particular. I thanked them for a good year and getting us where we've wanted to be for a long time. We're going to miss those guys. Love every single one of them and thanked them for all they've done.
“We got a taste of it tonight, and we'll be back. We'll be back, and it won't be 30 years. We'll be back, and hopefully these guys will play better next time. Simple as that. We got off to a fast start, but we could not sustain the momentum on defense, and then all of a sudden we're getting ready to go up 24-21, looks like it's going to be a shootout, and it's a 14-point swing - a 99-yard touchdown, which all of a sudden that just opened the door.
“It was just like a virus with turnovers. Four turnovers, three of them that they got touchdowns off of. You just can't give a good offense those type of opportunities, easy scores, field position. It just snowballed from there.
“It's probably as bad a defensive performance I've seen in a long, long time. It's incredibly disappointing.
“But again, our players have gotten a taste of where we want this program to consistently be, and I think it'll be great lessons for us as we move forward in trying to continue to build our program into the type of program that we want it to be.”
On Andre Ellington’s fumble and West Virginia 99-yard TD return: “It was a pretty huge moment. They hadn't really stopped us. We were scoring, but they were matching us, and we couldn't get a stop. We'd get momentum and lose momentum, get momentum, lose momentum. That was going to be a huge swing for us. Like I said, it was going to put us up 24-21, we're right back in this thing and still searching for a stop.
“But that was huge. I mean, that was a big, big play because now all of a sudden it was 28-17, and again, all of a sudden we continued to have another turnover here and there, and it just snowballed quickly.
“You've got to give (West Virginia) a ton of credit. I'm telling you, we still haven't tackled No. 1 (Tavon Austin). He's as good a skilled player with the ball in his hands as I've seen all year. I mean, he's special. He is a special, special football player. He's second in the country in all-purpose yardage, I believe. You saw why tonight. Very, very talented player.
“Their quarterback was outstanding. What was he, 31 of 45? Do the math on that. And 10-of-16 on third down. They had the ball 36 minutes, we had it 23. It's just hard to win.
“Again, I’m just very, very disappointing how it got away from us. But that's how quick things can snowball on you, especially when you start turning it over against a team that can score. It is what it is from that standpoint.
“This is obviously a very, very disappointing finish for us. But at the end of the day, the season is over, and you've got to look at the big picture. We didn't play well in this game, but we had a good season. And again, we accomplished a tremendous amount, and so much for us to build upon, and we can't let one game get our eyes off of that.
“We've got a good football team coming back, and we've got to focus on closing this thing out with our banquet, and sending these seniors off the right way and then refocusing on finishing off a really good recruiting class and getting back to work. And our goal will be to get back here. That will be our goal. That will be our objective.
“Tonight is a bitter taste. I’m really disappointing for our fans, especially those that traveled down here. Just so disappointing for us to play like we played. But we'll be back.”
On Clemson’s mistakes: “It was turnovers first of all, which really sucked the life out of us, and then some big mistakes on defense. (West Virginia) didn't do a whole lot different – they just whipped us.”
On his confidence in getting Clemson’s defensive problems fixed: “I'm as confident as I was last year standing here in a press conference 6-7 and telling you we'd fix it. I'm as confident as that. We'll be better. We'll be better. No doubt in my mind. I mean, y'all have seen us play better. But we just did not put it together with three phases tonight, and it just was a perfect storm because we were having a hard time stopping them.
“You've got to give them credit. We were having a very difficult time stopping them, but they were having a hard time stopping us, too. We really felt like we could run the football on them, and I think had we been able to keep the game going like we were, we really would have been able to rush the football very well tonight, but it just turned in a hurry. And the turnovers offensively just killed us, and then that just added to what was going on on the defensive side.
“We might have had a chance if we could take care of the ball. Maybe it would have been a 56-55, 43-42 type ballgames. It would have been an interesting game to see. But we didn't really give ourselves a chance to get there with the turnovers. It's one thing to not stop them, but you can't add to the calls with making those critical mistakes.”
On whether the Tigers suffered from a lack of focus: “No, I don't think it was lack of focus. We've prepared very well. Guys practiced well. It's just guys making mistakes. Is it a lack of focus that a guy fumbles the ball going in for a touchdown? Does that mean the other ten guys aren't focused? We just didn't make some plays that we were very capable of making. Guys are in position to make plays, and we didn't make some of those plays. It's just that simple.
“We were very focused. Guys were excited about playing and like I said, got off to a good start. But I felt like it was probably going to be a shootout. I was hoping that we could slow them down a little bit early, but I had no illusions that they were going to score some points, but I really felt they'd have a hard time stopping us. I really think that would have been the case, but we just self-imploded with some costly turnovers and gave them good field position three times off of those three turnovers. Hard to win that way. Hard to give yourself a chance.”
On whether the ACC should be judged by its 2-13 record in BCS games: “We've got to play better. We've had opportunities. I thought Virginia Tech played much better than we did. They didn't play well enough to win. But some of the other teams I think have been competitive.
“But it all comes down to winning. We have not had a good year this year, and we certainly didn't do our part. I don't really worry about other people, to be honest with you. I'm just focused on Clemson. You know, that's really the only thing that matters to me. I'm really not concerned with anybody else. But it’s very disappointing from that standpoint in how we played and represented our conference.”
On West Virginia QB Geno Smith’s seven touchdowns: “He was awesome, played great, and like I said, the skilled player (Austin) caught everything thrown to him. (Smith) had a 65 percent completion percentage all year. He's done it all year long. He made some big scrambles on third down, at least three or four times where he really hurt us in that regard.
“He's a very good football player. He's as good as we've seen all year, and we knew that coming in, and we didn't do a good job of disrupting what they were doing in the passing game. And then (Austin), he was better than us out there tonight.”
On his off-season evaluation of Clemson’s defense: “We’ve got to look at everything that we've done this year, good and bad, and evaluate. That's just what you do. I mean, we are the ACC champions. We did win 10 games. I think we were second in the country with wins versus ranked opponents. So it's not like we have not done anything. But we have not played to our standard defensively at all, and nobody is going to tell you otherwise.
“Our defensive coaches are as disappointed as I am. But again, we knew that we were going to have some struggles this year, but I just really felt like that we've got to get some guys to play with a little more discipline, a little more consistency. Just too many missed assignments.
“We've got to look at what we're doing and make sure that guys know what they're doing, because again, missed assignments lead to big plays. We'll look at everything and how we're doing it and come back next year.
“We were the ninth scoring defense in the country last year and top 25 the year before. Ain't nobody forgot how to coach or anything like that. We've just got to grow some guys up, and they will get better from this experience. There's no doubt about that.
“We've got some guys that are going to be coming that I think will be able to help us, as well, and just learn from this year. We've got a lot of film to study and evaluate and learn from. That's what you do in the off-season, you try to come back and have a better year next year.”