Swinney looking for "smooth" game

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney discusses Saturday's critical matchup with Florida State.

Opening comments...
Swinney: Coming off a good win last week. Quickly moving on trying to get ready for the biggest game of the year for us. Our focus is strictly on getting better and having the strongest possible finish we can. Control what we can control. For us to do that we have to put a complete game together on the road. We have not done that. We are o'fer on the road and that's the most frustrating thing we have to deal with. We've been in every game in the fourth quarter. We need a complete smooth game on the road.

Florida State has a good team. They have the best offense we've played, averaging 33 points a game. A lot of misdirection. A lot screens. A lot of play-action. They really moved the ball on us pretty good last year. They did a really good job but the turnovers were the difference in the game for us. Third downs they lead the league- think they are 50 percent. Quarterback is a very good player. Seasoned started. Very smart. Sees things better than a young guy could. Their offensive line is outstanding. Very very good. Hudson won the Jacobs award last year. That will be heckuva matchup last year. Center is very good. Excellent skill- always do. That's one thing that's the same. No. 83 it he one they move around. 82 and 8 are also guys they will have in there a bunch creating opportunties. Jermaine Thomas, very good player who we recruited. Lonnie Pryor - the fullback- he's outstanding. Multi-task fullback. They will screen to him and do a lot of different things.

For us, we have to effect the quarterback and stop the run and be good on third down. Tackle their skill in space. They had some easy throws and a guy ran for 20 yards last year. Eliminate the big plays- and make them earn it.

Their defense - is very different from what we've seen from Florida State in year's past. More zone. Not quite as much blitzing. It's a little different in that regard. Coach Stoops has done a good job. They are very talented. No. 49 - Jenkins - he's right there with Da'Quan as finalists for this and that. Very good player. They get a lot of pressure with a four-man rush. That makes your zone coverage very effective.

They win a lot of 1-on-1 matchups. High motor guys up front. They lead the nation in sacks as a team and we are top 15 in the nation in not giving up sacks. Chris Hairston going against Jenkins - that's a battle to watch right there. All night long.

Offensively, it's about executing. Stop shooting ourselves in the foot. KP has to play at a high level. Stay composed. We were down last year 17-6 to these guys and then 24-21 in the fourth quarter.

Special teams is always a factor when you play Florida State. Obviously the kicking situation is critical. Last year we did not perform very well kicking the ball. Rough couple of weeks (this year). Their punter is very good, so is ours.

For us it's about a great week of preparation and controlling what we can control. Everything else doesn't matter.

What about your placekicking situation?
Swinney: Use the same holder. Let them compete all week long. Got off to a good start last night. One was 5-for-5, another was 5-for-5 and one was 4-for-5. They don't know when we are going to kick - before practice, during or after practice.

Will you make a change at snapper?
Swinney: Skinner. If he performs like he did yesterday he'll be fine. Certainly he had a snap at the end of the game Saturday that could have cost us big time. We have confidence in the back up.

Does it change your mind set when you get down inside the 30 with kickers that aren't making kicks?
Swinney: Well, you know we went for one the other day because I felt like we had a better chance to get it and we needed touchdowns. Obviously missing the two kicks was not good. These guys are talented. We've got talented kickers. For whatever reason it's not quite transferring over to game day right now. We'll keep challenging them. We've got to be aggressive and score touchdowns. We aren't going to play conservative.

How closely will you monitor the Ponder situation this week?
Swinney: We'll monitor it because he's the starting quarterback. The backup was the MVP of the bowl game. They will do what they do regardless of who the quarterback is. From a prep standpoint it's not that much of a difference. The back is a good player. He can perform very well. I'd be surprised if Ponder's not under center for them.

You were very good in the red zone the first seven games but not so good the last two. What's the problem there?
Swinney: Execution. We've missed a bunch of kicks. Penalties. Fumbles. Dropped balls. Move the ball down there 15 plays and we just haven't quite come away with points the last two games like we've needed to.

"They win a lot of 1-on-1 matchups. High motor guys up front. They lead the nation in sacks as a team and we are top 15 in the nation in not giving up sacks. Chris Hairston going against Jenkins - that's a battle to watch right there. All night long."

How would you evaluate your offensive line through nine games?
Swinney: Played very well. Most consistent group on our team. You win some battles and lose some battles but they've been extremely consistent. There are a lot of things that have been out there that they have no control over this year where they have played well- for example with the Maryland game when we had six drops.

How about just the view of the offense after nine games? It seems not stepping forward like the defense has.
Swinney: They've played well at times this year. Very well. Especially when we had all the pieces of the puzzle clicking together. There has been some good execution offensively where we've shot ourselves in the foot. We've had to grow up in some areas - and that's been pretty obvious. And we've grown up. We obviously aren't the same team last year when we scored the most points in school history. The coaches didn't get stupid. That's why you recruit. I'm excited about what we have coming back. We have two seniors starting on offense (KP and Hairston). We've got a great recruiting class we are putting together and that's going to add some explosiveness.

Will it be the same game plan for Tajh Boyd this week?
Swinney: Oh yeah. We want to continue to involve him whenever we can. We had two first play fumbles last week. Hard to win that way but we found a way. Maybe that's the spark we need. He had one of them. Then we had one where he was able to keep the drive going but we had a holding call. Hated to see that. Good to see him get a little action. And we'll continue that. Kyle - can't say enough about how he played. Especially after the game he played the previous game- where everybody likes to remind him of that every day- you can't say enough.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is 1-1 against Florida State. (Roy Philpott)
Did allowing Kyle Parker to watch from the bench provide a spark for him?
Swinney: No I just think he played like crap against Boston College. He actually played well the whole game against N.C. State minus two plays. He graded very very well. Threw for 69 percent. Two bad decisions that cost us. He's not perfect. I said before the game I'd be shocked if he didn't play his best game of the year and I thought he did.

On the running back side- is Jamie Harper back to full strength and what's the latest with Andre Ellington?
Swinney: Jamie is fine. I'm proud of Jamie Harper. He laid it on the line for the whole game. Effort was tremendous and was a factor in the passing game. Very pleased with how he played and hopefully he'll take a lot of confidence with that. He still left some things on the field in the running game. Not having Ellington hurt. He's a big part of our offense. Ellington is going through this rehab process that is evaluated each week. We are hopeful that he'll be able to come back and play before the season is out.

What is FSU doing up front to get all of these sacks? They have 11 more than anybody else in the country?
Swinney: They had a lot in a game or two and that got them off to a good start. They are winning a lot of 1-on-1's and they have good players. It's not like they are lining up and selling out to the quarterback. They are winning. They are disruptive.

How was North Carolina able to gut their defense last weekend?
Swinney: They had some double moves and play-action. North Carolina big-played 'em. Got behind 'em on some double moves. It was mostly big plays in the passing game. Threw over top and were able to hang on and win it in the end.

Will it be the same rotation at running back this week?
Swinney: Rod will have to play better. He got big eyes. He got caught up in the big picture instead of here's where my eyes are and here are my keys. I was really frustrated because he could really help us. I told him he would have played more if he executed a little better.

Will it be strange to not have a thousand Bowdens down there?
Swinney: Yes that will be a little different. That's something I'll always remember last year visiting with Coach Bowden before and after the game and being a part of his last Florida State-Clemson game. It's still Bobby Bowden Field. I'm sure his presence is still surrounding the area down there.

Has thise been a hard year for a team where you've been there in control of your destiny and then not? Seems like a rollercoaster kind of year for a bunch of 18-22 year olds and that has to be tough on them?
Swinney: They are a close group. They hang in there. It's been a tough year. When you are in position to win every game. The three losses on the road have really hurt us going back to Auburn. These guys have come back. We've shown a lot of consistency in how we've battled everybody. That's a good sign. I'm proud of that. You see some teams blow somebody out then get blown out. Major inconsistency. We've certainly got to get better and we don't play smart every week and we have guys that do things that make you scratch your head. We continue to battle win or lose. Good things are ahead for these guys and the program and everybody involved with it.

Did you see Jacoby Ford blow up Sunday?
Swinney: Yeah. I was in my office Sunday night. Tim Bourret is blowing my phone up. Turned it on and saw the last bit of the fourth quarter where he made the great catch. Saw the deep ball. Didn't see the kick return live. It was neat to see him have that kind of day and I sent him a few text messages. Big day for Clemson overall. Chansi scored on the Panther play. Michael Palmer scored. Good day for Clemson in the NFL. We had 10 guys go to the NFL last year and eight are still playing. Thomas Austin is still on the practice squad.

Do you think Kyle is more comfortable to throw out of the shotgun instead of under center?
Swinney: I think he is. I think if you asked him he's probably say he liked the shotgun.

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