Lifelong love of the road has Swinney hoping Tigers will 'embrace' opportunity

'I loved to go to LSU and see grandmas flip you a finger riding in on the bus. I was like 'wow, this is wild''

Florida State linebacker Christian Jones defends Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the third quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Florida State linebacker Christian Jones defends Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the third quarter.

Dabo Swinney fully appreciates the advantages of 'home sweet home' football.

Nevetheless, Clemson's coach says he enjoys a good road trip now and then.

Fan hostility, he said, translates to excitement.

"I personally have always enjoyed going on the road," Swinney said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "I loved it as a player. I loved the hostility of it, growing up in the SEC.

"I loved to go to LSU and see grandmas flip you a finger riding in on the bus. I was like 'wow, this is wild.' Hearing people talk bad about you, calling me 'Skinny Swinney' - I loved that. I thought it was great. It was a lot of fun to be a part of."

Swinney hopes his Tigers will feel the same as they go on the road to Syracuse and its fabled Carrier Dome.

Swinney embraces hostile road

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"I hope we embrace that this week," Swinney said. "This is one of the environments that I've always wanted to go and check out, because it's a tough place to play. All you have to do is look at their track record there at home.

"But the biggest challenge is that it's hard to win on the road. That's just a fact. It's hard to win on the road in any league, in anything that you do. Everybody's more comfortable at home. You have the surroundings that you're used to, and the fans are all pulling for you."

Since arriving at Clemson, Swinney said he's consciously tried to re-establish Death Valley as a tough place to play. At home, Swinney owns the best winning percentage in ACC history in conference games (17-2, .895) and is 29-5 overall (.853) at home. On the road, Swinney's teams are 11-12.

On the home front, Syracuse is getting there. The Orange are 2-0 at home this year, and 11-5 in the Carrier Dome over the past three seasons. In the previous three seasons (2008-10), Syracuse was just 8-12 on its home turf.

"Our guys take a lot of pride in playing at home, as most teams do," Swinney said. "One of my objectives when I got this job was to make Death Valley a hard place to win. I think we've done a pretty good job of that.

"But the game doesn't change, no matter where you play. If external factors play a part in your performance - if the plane ride's a little longer, or if you're playing at noon, or if you're wearing new uniforms - if any of that stuff affects how you play, you'll never be a great team.

"The game will come down to execution, great effort and doing the things you have to do to win."

Of all the different 'external factors' Clemson will experience in the Carrier Dome - also known as the Loud House - Swinney thinks crowd noise will be the greatest obstacle.

"We have some experience with playing in domed stadiums, and in practicing indoors here, and we have Field Turf," he said. "The main thing is just the sight lines and backgrounds in catching the ball, where the lights are. But other than that, it's just a field.

"The noise will be more compact. But we've played in a lot of loud places. Defensively, it's going to be more quiet for our guys. Our defense plays with tremendous noise at home. We don't huddle on defense, and it's deafening out there when they're on the field. We're used to communicating in that. On the road, they can actually talk to each other.

"Offensively, it will be more of a challenge. But those are things that really shouldn't be a factor."

As for the Syracuse's lack of air-conditioning, Swinney is pretty sure that a warm autumn day in Upstate New York has nothing on August in the Carolinas.

"People tell me they shut the fans off and gets it stuffy and all that," Swinney said. "But we're from Clemson, and if you've been around here in August, you know we have some hot stuff to practice in around here.

"Our indoor facility doesn't have air, and it can get a little stuffy in there, too. We'll practice in there all week, and we'll crank it up and make it as hot as we can. It should not be a factor."

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Comments » 2

Bleedsorange writes:

I would have concern of it were cold in the carrier dome but heat,humidity? Come on I cut my grass in worse conditions.

TigerNE writes:

Every road win this season gets more important as they lead up to the most challenging road game of all at the end of the season.

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