Tigers head into open weekend feeling good about themselves

Dabo Swinney:' I'm just very encouraged. You want to feel good about where you are and the progress you're making'

Clemson running back Roderick McDowell dives into the endzone to score a touchdown in the second quarter at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson running back Roderick McDowell dives into the endzone to score a touchdown in the second quarter at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

From Dabo Swinney's perspective, all is well in the world of Clemson football.

Tajh Boyd has rediscovered the magic and the offense is beginning to hum. The defense has 19 three-and-outs in its last two games.

The Tigers go into an open weekend with a chance to heal bumps and bruises, while sitting on the longest top-10 streak in school history.

As Clemson heads into the home stretch of its season - an annual battle of wills and wits with ACC Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech, a catch-your-breath date against The Citadel, and a final high-stakes showdown with South Carolina in Columbia - Swinney likes what his team has done, and is optimistic about what they may yet accomplish.

"I'm just very encouraged," said Swinney during a teleconference on Monday. "You want to feel good about where you are and the progress you're making, and I think our guys feel good about how they've played the last couple of weeks, especially in correcting some mistakes."

A notable area of improvement in the Virginia game was the Tigers' red zone offense, which had to settle for four field goals a week earlier against Maryland.

"We struggled in the red zone last week, and this week we had five rushing touchdowns and did a great job down there," Swinney said. "I'm just proud of our guys for how they competed. It was a very impressive win. It was our best game in quite a while, and a great start to November for us.

"It was definitely our most complete game. I thought we were close up at Maryland, and it was good to see us get better this week. That's two weeks in a row that I feel like we've gotten better."

Swinney said the Tiger defense had season-bests in tackles for loss, pass break-ups, and in limiting yards-after-catch.

"Defensively, I was really pleased with our effort and focus," Swinney said. "I thought we got better as the game went along. We had 10 three-and-outs. It was just a really good performance. Our guys competed much better on the back end and played much more physical.

"As we got ahead and put young guys in, they continued to play with the type of intensity that we want."

On offense, Swinney said the Tigers significantly cut down on mental errors.

"Offensively, this is two weeks in a row that I think we've gotten better," he said. "The first group did a really good job, but then the second group that came in - especially (center) Jay Guillermo - did an excellent job. It was the fewest mental errors we've had, and we were throwing and catching the ball well. We did some good things going in the running game. It was just a good, solid performance.

"It was the same thing with our special teams. It was good to get (placekicker) Ammon Lakip in there and give him a little work, and Bradley Pinion continues to punt the ball well."

Swinney said the Tigers came out of the Virginia game in good shape, injury-wise. Reserve running back C.J. Davidson and freshman defensive back Ronald Geohaghan are being treated for mild MCL sprains.

"C.J. will have a brace on it, and if he gets comfortable, he can get back in there," he said. "We're treating Geohaghan's as an MCL as well. Both of them felt better today. And we'll get (cornerback) Garry Peters back in practice this week. I'm excited to get him back in time for Georgia Tech. We've got a good nucleus of guys.”

Swinney said the Tigers' open weekend comes at a good time.

"I think our schedule sets up good as we get ready to finish this month out," Swinney said. "We have a chance to get some guys healthy and rejuvenated this week. We'll be doing a little work on ourselves, and then will start the process of getting ready for Georgia Tech.

"I know it looks like an open date on the schedule, but it's really a work weekend for us because of it being a Thursday night game. We'll be smart with how we prepare our guys."

The Tigers will follow the same practice schedule they used for their last open weekend, but with a slightly lighter workload.

"We'll treat this open date a little differently, even though our schedule will be the same," Swinney said. "The way we work will be a little different just because we have a lot of guys beat up right now.

"We'll practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday we're going to do a community service as a team, and we're excited about that. And then on Saturday, we'll start a normal game week, as if it was Monday."

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