CLEMSON — Monday morning, Clemson players and coaches will meet – just like they do every week – to discuss the previous week’s game and watch film.
By Monday afternoon, win or lose, the focus has shifted to the next game, with flat-screen televisions throughout the WestZone displaying a countdown to kickoff.
It’s no different this week. Following a disappointing 49-37 loss to No.4 Florida State, Clemson – which slid seven spots to No.17 in the Associated Press top 25 Sunday – must both learn from and forget about Saturday’s events quickly.
“It’s very disappointing,” Swinney said Sunday. “But we’ve got good solid leadership and I think they’ll come back to work. We’ve got to flush this out of our system, focus on the next game. We’ve got 12 games and we want to win as many of those as we possibly can, not let this one lose the next one for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to draw on all of our experiences.”
Thanks to Saturday night’s defeat, Clemson no longer controls its path to the ACC title game. The Tigers must win the rest of their league games and hope Florida State loses twice, as the Seminoles control the Atlantic Division tiebreaker.
“We’re not a great team in September but we could be in November,” he said. “There are plenty of examples of that. We got beaten by a very good team at their place. We have a chance to be a good football team but we’re a ways away from that. We’ve got a lot of guys we’ve got to compete and coach, a lot of coaching and teaching and correcting every single day. We’re going to get there but we’ve got to do a great job as coaches to make sure that game doesn’t beat you again.”
A year ago, the Seminoles followed a 35-30 loss at Clemson with a loss at Wake Forest, sealing their Atlantic fate. Saturday, Clemson travels to Boston College; Swinney owns the program’s only all-time win there, but 2010’s 16-13 loss still stings.
“There’s a chance for a great season,” Swinney said. “There’s a lot out there for this team. Anything can happen in this conference. There’s no telling what could go on in November.”
To be great, Clemson will have to improve defensively. The Tigers yielded 667 yards of total offense Saturday, the second-worst single-game total in program history.
Upon review, Swinney pointed to “15 or 20 plays where I was very disappointed” with his defense.
“We were poor against the run (280 yards), gave up big plays and had poor tackling,” he said. “We didn’t play with confidence at corner. Too many plays where we got blocked. Give Florida State credit for a good job executing.”
He seemed particularly unhappy with the play at cornerback, saying “anything is possible” and “we’ve got some guys we really have to challenge this week.”
“We’ve got some guys who have to play better and have played better,” he said. “We’ve got to challenge a few guys to perform better or give someone else an opportunity. We don’t have a lot of depth in the secondary and we’ve got some guys who are coming but not quite where we want them to be.
“There are a couple of guys playing cornerback, who, for whatever reason, are not playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve got to get that confidence back. Bad things are going to happen, but you have to be more aggressive, finish tackles better, compete for the ball better. There’s a lot to improve on.”
One player who won’t be moving to corner is freshman Travis Blanks, who had eight tackles while playing linebacker Saturday night. Blanks’ versatility makes him a candidate, but Swinney said he has done “a good job in the role we’ve put him in,” adding that he’ll likely start at safety next season with seniors Rashard Hall, Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks graduating.
“He had a couple of mismatches last night but he competes his tail off,” Swinney said. “He had a mistake on one long run but plays hard and he’ll get better. It’s important to him. He plays with technique and a ton of energy and I see him getting better and better. He’s got a bright future.”