Having 'learned to win,' Tigers ready to take on Terps' challenges

Dabo Swinney: 'During this run, life has come back into the stadium. On Saturday, we need the stadium rocking'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney claps while the team practices before the game with Wake Forest at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney claps while the team practices before the game with Wake Forest at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

History warns Clemson to overlook Maryland at its own peril.

Dabo Swinney is increasingly confident that this generation of Tigers won’t overlook anyone, as they head into their homecoming game Saturday against the Terps.

“If you don’t come to play, you get beat,” said Swinney during his news conference on Tuesday. “Our guys have learned how to win, and that starts with focus.”

The eighth-ranked Tigers are 8-1 and riding a five-game winning streak, while Maryland has lost its last three. The Terps are battered on both sides of the ball – down to their fifth-string quarterback, a converted freshman linebacker, and without one of their defense’s top leaders and best players in linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who suffered a torn ACL Saturday against Georgia Tech.

Unique Maryland QB situation, Ellington update

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Nevertheless, the Terps will present challenges.

“I was very impressed with what they did last week in just a few days,’ Swinney said. “They had a good plan, and I expect them to be even better this week.

“They ran zone-read and screens with a lot of Utah motion, and they took some shots. The quarterback (Shawn Petty) made some nice throws. We’ll have to be smart, because we’ll probably see some different things.

“Their offense line is solid, and No. 1 (freshman receiver Stefon Diggs) is a really good football player who can make things happen.”

The Terps’ defense has been its strength all season.

“Their defense is as good as we’ve played,” Swinney said. “(Joe) Vellano – I can’t believe he’s still there…It’s like he’s been playing 10 years. He’s a high-motor, tough guy who leads the league in tackles for loss. He plays the game the way you want everybody to play it. And they’ve got good linebackers and big defensive backs.”

Swinney said he expects running back Andre Ellington to be ready to play against the Terps.

“We’re not going to force anything, but if he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” said Swinney. "I think he'll be ready to go."

Swinney said he expects a high-energy atmosphere for homecoming.

“We have a chance to set the home winning record (12 straight), and I’m proud of the consistency we’ve been able to play with at home,” he said. “Our fans are a huge part of that.

“During this run, life has come back into the stadium. On Saturday, we need the stadium rocking, and we need to play our best game.”

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