Dabo Swinney has a very intentional policy when it comes to winning wins that don’t come so easily for his Clemson football team.
Turn up the music and celebrate tonight.
Get up tomorrow and go back to work.
But after No. 4 Clemson’s defense allowed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against Florida State in a 34-28 Tigers victory on Saturday night, not everyone in said unit was exactly ready. to go into dance mode in the visitors’ locker room at Doak. Campbell Stadium.
“We’ve got a lot that we can learn from it,” Swinney said, “but man, like I told them in there, I know some guys were a little disappointed with how they ended the game, But we’ll worry about it later. Let’s celebrate the win and get back to work. Enjoy it tonight.
It was a goodbye message of positivity after the last 15 minutes which understandably generated some negative feelings. After leading 7-0 and 14-7 early on, Clemson had an unanswered 27 points over FSU and built a 34-14 momentum lead early in the fourth quarter.
Then, Swinney said, “we just lost our minds.”
Quarterback Jordan Travis and the rest of the Florida State offense went wild after being suppressed for most of the game, and after back-to-back fourth quarter touchdowns, Clemson needed a recovery from onside kick from receiver Brannon Spector and a first down by running back Will Shipley to officially put away a play that should have been over a long time ago.
The No. 4-ranked Tigers are 7-0 5-0 up in the ACC heading into next weekend’s home game against No. 18 Syracuse, but not without a few marks.
In the fourth quarter alone, FSU beat Clemson 14-0, outscored the Tigers 169-40 on total offense and executed quick touchdown passes on seven plays for 60 yards and 94 yards to cut a 20-point lead to six. points with 2: 17 remaining.
Swinney’s diagnosis of what was wrong?
“Interrupted assignments, loss of focus, interrupted assignments, missed tackles, missed tackles… busted out on screen-and-go,” Swinney said. “Just stupid stuff. Penalties, a bit of everything there. Just lost our focus a bit. I thought it was playing on the scoreboard, if you will.
This “disappointing” stretch negated some of Clemson’s earlier defensive efficiency, which included a key sack from defensive end Myles Murphy on a 17-0 run in the “middle eight” part of the game, a fourth and a pass breakup from defensive end KJ Henry and two more forced turnovers on the downs.
Travis finished the game with 381 total yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles outshot the Tigers 460–370 total and 206–167 rushing. FSU had 10 rushing plays over 10 yards and seven passing plays over 15 yards.
“There were some good things (defensively) and we really had control,” Swinney said. “But really, really sloppy at the end there.”
Perhaps most concerning: Clemson’s shortcomings came with coordinator Wes Goodwin’s defense at, essentially, full strength for the first time this season. It wasn’t the understaffed secondary that was slashed by Wake Forest in a double-overtime shootout or the understaffed defensive line that failed to fire quarterbacks at the elite pace that she wished.
It was a loaded unit that welcomed starting cornerback Sheridan Jones, starting defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and rotational safeties RJ Mickens and Tyler Venables back into the lineup. Clemson also picked up defensive end Xavier Thomas last week, meaning the Tigers had their entire defensive line dubbed “Avengers” during their deployment.
To be clear, the Tigers offense did the defense no favors lagging behind with zero points in the fourth quarter. Clemson came out three times directly in front of FSU’s first fourth-quarter touchdown (34-21) and went on a grueling but ultimately scoreless 10-game run before FSU’s second fourth-quarter TD (34-28) .
Still, Clemson’s defense couldn’t have been in a much better position after punter Aidan Swanson pinned FSU on their own six-yard line with 3:52 remaining. The play-by-play that followed: Travis seven-yard completion, incompletion, Travis 10-yard run, Travis 23-yard completion, incompletion, Travis 29-yard completion, Travis 25-yard touchdown pass.
That’s seven plays and 94 yards in the blink of an eye.
Goodwin described Murphy’s tape sack, which set up a Clemson touchdown just before halftime, as “huge” and praised cornerback Nate Wiggins for two major pass breakups. But he also lamented the Tigers’ lack of technique in their tackling, injuries which caused “rusty” performances from recently recovered players and a general lack of finishing.
“Kind of like a shark, you smell the blood in the water and you have to finish the job,” Goodwin said. “We cannot relax and let our guard down. We have to play with the same intensity with which we played the whole match.
Those slip-ups have yet to catch up with the Tigers. Boasting a capable offense and a four- and five-star rookie roster, Clemson was able to lean on quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and company and sometimes make up for his mistakes with athleticism alone and celebrate seven wins all the way. same.
And until periods of poor defensive play became complete plays of poor defensive play, Swinney made it clear after the game that one stat trumps the rest.
“I have a lot of respect for the state of Florida,” he said. “I’ve had my ass kicked by these guys a couple of times…it could have been a one point win and I’d be happy.” We will prepare for the next one. Proud of them and I know they will come back ready to roll.
This story was originally published October 16, 2022 6:30 a.m.
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