In Dabo's Words: Tigers 'where we need to be, playing our best football down the stretch'

'We've played 10 ballgames, and I'd be quite frankly pretty disappointed if we weren't better, because we've got talented players'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and assistant Jeff Scott communicate from the sidelines during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and assistant Jeff Scott communicate from the sidelines during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

(Editor's Note: Dabo Swinney made the following comments during the ACC coaches' teleconference).

In Dabo's Words...

On Clemson's performance last week against Maryland: "I'm proud of our team for how they played last week. I thought it was one of our most complete games of the year. The team just seems to be continuing to improve."

On the challenge for Clemson's pass defense against N.C. State: "We're going to have to play very well. He (Mike Glennon) gets rid of the ball, and we're going to have to try to obviously get some pressure on him, and when we do, we have to win some match ups outside from a coverage standpoint. They've got really good receivers, and they want to throw the football. He understands, he's a very smart player, he understands what you're doing, you're not going to fool him, and so basically it just comes down to winning match ups."

On the Tigers' improvement in the secondary: "We've improved a ton - we really have...and we've faced some teams that throw the ball very well. Duke, I thought, was outstanding with their ability to throw the football. Their quarterback and their receivers put a lot of pressure on you, and I thought we matched up pretty good there.

But it's going to take a great effort, there's no doubt about it, because these guys are very capable of putting up some points and making big plays."

On N.C. State's inconsistency: "You look at their first game, it was a pretty close game. They win three in a row, they lose in a shootout to Miami, have a ton of yards, lose by a touchdown, and then everybody saw the North Carolina game. I'm not sure that the North Carolina game maybe didn't still affect them that Virginia game. Not to take anything away from Virginia because they played very well, but they just for whatever reason, it just got away from them early, and sometimes that happens.

"But I would say the biggest thing is just the turnovers. I think Coach (Tom) O'Brien would probably tell you the exact same thing. It's hard to win when you're negative in the turnover margin, and they just had some costly turnovers that have hurt them.

"And then obviously you had the North Carolina game pretty much in control there and got away from them, and then they lose on the punt return. They've just had some tough breaks there where they just haven't finished. But this is a very capable team. They held Florida State, who's scoring a ton of points, to 16 points. So they're very capable...

"They've been in just about every game. The Virginia game is just about the only game really that got away from them, and maybe some of that might be just a little bit leftover from the heart breaking loss they had at North Carolina. But I'll tell you, they got back on track quickly against Wake Forest this past weekend, and I expect nothing but their best this week."

On avoiding letdowns and flat performances: "We respect every team, because quite frankly there's not a team on our schedule that can't beat us. This very team (N.C. State) embarrassed us last year on national TV. You look all around college football, I mean, there's some crazy things that happen in college football.

'Our method here is just literally every week is the biggest game of the year. Okay, here's the opponent, we don't really worry about the name on the jersey, it's more about, okay, here's this opponent, here's what they do, here's what we have to prepare for, here's our plan to win, let's execute it, period. Let's bring great purpose with our preparation, let's give great effort with an emphasis on technique.

"That's really it. That's all we've done all year, and this team has shown up ready to play and excited they're excited about playing on game day. It's not about, 'okay, let's get real excited this week because we play this opponent and then next week' - we just don't look at it that way. I think this team has done a good job, and that's why they've been a very consistent bunch."

On the Tigers' overall defensive development: "It's just collectively as a group. We had our season low two mental errors this past week and just collectively as a group we've just matured so much...You've got to understand, outside of Malliciah (Goodman) we had almost zero experience in our defensive line, and they've all played now. They're all experienced, we've developed some depth, and because they're so much more knowledgeable and understand what we're doing, they play faster and they play more confident. They're more focused on their fundamentals and technique. e're not busting like we were earlier in the year. And our linebackers are playing at a high level for us, our secondary has improved. So we're tackling better, and that's just all a result of the experience factor, learning a new system.

"Now we've played 10 ballgames, and I'd be quite frankly pretty disappointed if we weren't better because we've got talented players. But we're a work in progress, and I felt like the first half of the season we'd kind of have to just fight our way through it, but I thought we would be much improved the second half, and that's how we have to turn it out, and I'll tell you, they're playing very well, and they've got to just continue to play with a great effort and intensity and attention to detail that they've done these last few weeks because we're not giving up many points, creating turnovers, we're competing for balls a lot better, we're not giving up near as many long runs or anything like that.

"It's been good to see them improve. They're playing with a lot of confidence right now, and that's where we need to be, playing our best football down the stretch here."

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