CLEMSON — Upon further review, Dabo Swinney didn’t find much wrong with Clemson’s 52-27 pounding of Ball State Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers passed for over 300 yards. They allowed no sacks. Clemson played 80 different players and generally set about destroying the Cardinals from the opening kick, rolling up 526 yards of total offense and sailing to a 45-10 halftime lead, punctuated by Spencer Benton’s ACC-record 61-yard field goal.
“It was just a good solid win,” Swinney said Sunday on his weekly teleconference. “I was proud of the guys for coming out taking care of business. We set the tempo early in the game and had the game in hand at halftime. It was a real positive.”
Now, Swinney said, Clemson has “a bunch of coaching to do off this tape… it’s a chance to hopefully grow as a football team, teach a lot of guys from game experience.”
Penalties and dropped passes remain an issue; Clemson committed seven penalties for 63 yards Saturday.
So is rush defense – Ball State rolled up 252 yards on the ground.
“We’re still a work in progress,” he said. “We’ve got to be gap sound and everyone has to understand who he’s containing and take pursuit lanes. Those are things that are very coachable and that we can improve on.”
Even though the offense averages 527 yards and 39 points in two games, Swinney says it has “a ton of things to improve on.”
“There are things to get better at, mistakes made,” he said. “Maybe they didn’t show to the naked eye but we know what they are. We’ve got to continue to coach and stay focused on the preparation process. Play within the system. They’re playing within the system, which is why they had success. Stay focused on our formula, come every single day and prepare with purpose, apply technique and stay committed on and off the field. You do that daily, we’ll continue to have a chance to have success.”
That offense will add star sophomore receiver Sammy Watkins to the mix this week. Watkins missed the first two games while suspended for a May drug arrest; in his absence junior wideout DeAndre Hopkins caught 19 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. Hopkins had three touchdowns in a half of work Saturday, tying a Clemson single-game record.
“I told Sammy after the game that he better get back in a hurry,” Swinney joked.
Watkins worked with the scout team before the season-opening win over Auburn, but worked with the first-team offense last week.
“Sammy will be the first to tell you he wants to win,” Swinney said. “He’s not into (selfishness). He’s his teammates’ biggest fan. No one is more excited for teammates than Sammy Watkins. He’s good to have in the locker room and on the sidelines. I don’t worry about that. We’ve got good chemistry here.”
The only sign of strife Saturday was a heated exchange between Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables just before Benton booted the 61-yarder with eight seconds on the clock.
“No frustration at all,” Swinney said. “(Venables) didn’t want me to kick a 61-yarder. I value everyone’s input, but I’ve got to make the decisions. I knew the clock would run out. He was worried about having another play.”
“Man, you people don’t miss anything,” he said.
He said Benton has made kicks from 70 yards in practice; while Chandler Catanzaro has field goals to 54 yards locked down, Benton is the long-range kicker.
Starting left guard David Beasley left the game with a strained MCL in his knee; starting “Will” linebacker Jonathan Willard left with a sprained shoulder. Swinney expects to know more about both players’ status by Wednesday.
Sophomore tailback D.J. Howard suffered a bruised shoulder and sophomore linebacker Tony Steward sustained a mild hamstring pull. Both players are expected to be available this week.