Dabo previews Virginia Tech

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney previews the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech.

Opening comments...
Swinney: Glad to be with you here today and not on the road recruiting like everybody else. Really excited about representing our division for the second time in three years. That's a great accomplishment for this team and this staff. It's a chance to go to the Orange Bowl, which is the Super Bowl for our conference. And that's what it's always about. The regular season is over. The finish we had certainly wasn't what we hoped for. But we have the second-best record in this conference with nine wins, and the team with the best record we beat. We've struggled the last few ball games, but big picture, to be where we are and to compete for a championship is where we need to be.

This is playoff football. And it's like that in every game in college. Every week there is so much riding. It's really a playoff every game and you play all year long to jockey and position yourself for the postseason. Nobody really cares what your record is when you play for a championship. The Packers were a wildcard last year and they won it all and I'm sure they weren't sitting around and talking about the game they lost. It's competition. You worry about the next game - and the next season.

It's about the next game and competition. And that's what it's about for this team. Looking at Virginia Tech - they are obviously a very good football team. They've gotten better as the year has gone on. That staff has been together for a long time. There's a culture in place. They lose a ball game, it's no big deal, they go back to work and find ways to win. That's what you want in your program.

They do what they do. It's not a lot of surprises. It's kind of like the NFL. It's about execution. Fundamentals. Technique. For them offensively, No. 4 is special. He's a great back. He averages 6.0+ yards per carry. Their quarterback - since our game he's thrown 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's been very effective in the running game and he's thrown the ball accurately. Their receivers don't get enough credit. No. 19 has started a million games up there and 81 and 18 do a good job.

Defensively, they've done a great job because they've lost three starters since our game. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They do what they do.

They've been a little bit more of a pressure team as of late. That's probably a matter of confidence in their guys as they've gone through the season. It's all about execution for a championship game. You have to perform on the big stage.

Clemson is the only team to beat No. 5 Virginia Tech this season. (Roy Philpott)
Are you looking more at the last couple of games to correct issues or are you looking at Virginia Tech film from earlier this year?
Swinney: Well you certainly you are going to study the game against them. There's no greater teacher than actual video of your guys playing their guys. How they defended you and what was good and what was bad. We are always evaluating. We know what our issues are. We know where we are struggling. After any regular season you try to get better for the postseason. We've learned a lot of lessons from this season. I think we did a poor job of handling success. I stood here before our team on Aug. 4, and actually I told our staff too on our opening day of meetings, that I was very proud of them for how they handled adversity. I was proud. But I also said, here's the bigger challenge, is handling success. And I think we did a poor job of that. I think it's one of those things you have to experience. We'll be 8-0 again. We'll be 9-0. We'll be there again. But we did a poor job. Next thing you know, we aren't quite as focused, or quite as humbled.

I think these guys have to understand the will to win and the hope to win. There's a difference there. We have to play with the will to win. Not hope to win. That's a valuable lesson for our football team. And you have to responsible, dependable and accountable. Those are great lessons that we have learned from this regular season and now we have to apply that to the postseason. I know what reality is. I don't live in fantasy land. I'm very proud of our team. We've accomplished more this year than has been accomplished at Clemson in 20 years. And that's a fact. It's my job to get us better and we'll do that. But I do have to look at where we were and where we've come and we've made a lot of progress. We played 29 freshmen this year, second most in the country behind Indiana.

Last night after practice, I asked those who played in the 2009 championship game and only 18 or 19 stood up. And you couldn't count Dawson Zimmerman because he didn't punt. And I hope he doesn't punt again. But these guys are lucky to get another opportunity. This is going to be a great week for them. A great experience and hopefully a great stepping-stone for the program as a whole.

What were the lessons you learned as far as handling success?
Swinney: Well, again, you can talk about it. Maybe I could have done a better job. And I'll evaluate the job we did in the offseason. To be honest, I recognized it. Perhaps a little bit of less focus. It's like raising kids. Sometimes they have to learn things on their own and it's a painful process. I'm sure there are things we can all do better. That's part of the evaluation process. We'll get another opportunity.

Have you thought to allow more contact at practice?
Swinney: We go pretty hard in practice. We go good on good as much as anybody in the country on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are a lot of teams in the country that don't ever tackle. Alabama. Our mistakes are more commitment in preparation. And some of that is youth. Not really getting it. You think you got this and in the heat of the moment all of a sudden you don't. It's all part of the process. We have practiced very well but sometimes that doesn't translate to the performance you want. We don't have an ability problem right now. We have a little bit of a responsibility problem. That's what we have to improve upon and that's one of the great lessons of this season.

"We have practiced very well but sometimes that doesn't translate to the performance you want. We don't have an ability problem right now. We have a little bit of a responsibility problem."

How do you teach those lessons and not hurt the team's overall confidence?
Swinney: I just brought the whole team in here yesterday and we probably had a two and a half hour team meeting and went through the offense, defense and special teams. People don't have a clue (about what is going on). We had to create that accountability and encouragement from within. And we did that. I want to get that third undefeated season in Clemson history - that's a goal of mine. This was a difficult schedule this year and we earned where we are. At the end of the day it was a good season. First time we won all of our home games in 21 years and on and on and on. We also had some bad. But you take all of that and you coach them every day.

Talking with Urban Meyer when he was doing games here. He was really impressed by the offense and Chad Morris and now there's rumors he would be interested in him at Ohio State. Is Ohio State interested in Chad Morris?
Swinney: You guys are unbelievable. I've heard no rumors. Nobody has called me. I wouldn't be surprised because he's a great coach. I've had calls from people. Actually five. Chad's committed to Clemson. He loves it here. I don't see him leaving for any place until he's ready to be a BCS coach.

Do you worry about your guys taking the mentality of you beat Virginia Tech earlier this year at their place and that it will be easy to happen to again?
Swinney: No. I don't worry about that. We've got a ton of respect for our opponent. Our guys know how hard it is to win. That game is completely irrelevant to this game. It really doesn't matter. The ball bounces different ways on different nights. It doesn't have anything to do with this game Saturday night.

Your players said yesterday they are looking for a spark and looking to generate momentum. It sounds like you have practiced well and that would manufacture a spark. Wondering where the disconnect is?
Swinney: We aren't making the plays that are there. And that piles up. Next thing you know you are pressing. Then you get out of your system and it feeds throughout the whole team. You have to make the plays that are there and we've done that for the most part of this year. Momentum is powerful. It's a powerful thing. We just haven't done a good job of creating momentum. Even as bad as we played Saturday night, 14:45 to go in the fourth quarter and we've got a chance to make it a touchdown game. And we miss a signal. I mean, it's a walk-in touchdown. So it piles up. Those things pile up.

Dabo Swinney said five schools have called him about offensive coordinator Chad Morris, but Ohio State is not one. "Chad's committed to Clemson," he said. "He loves it here. I don't see him leaving for any place until he's ready to be a BCS coach." (Roy Philpott)
How do you create momentum going into Saturday?
Swinney: Practice. Practice on our plan. Knowing that you know, that you know, that you know, that you know it. Our guys are working. You just have to take ownership. We've all had those tests where you turn it in and you know. And then you have those tests where you know you didn't know it. You know you didn't study that one part or you weren't quite as prepared. It will get you. We have to take ownership in our preparation and execute it Saturday night. Practice well. Prepare well and play well in the game.

Have you simplified the defense the last couple of weeks and will you continue to do that?
Swinney: Yes. Yes. I don't know how much simpler we can get right now. It's very simple.

Bud Foster is going to bring a lot of pressure. Is that your biggest concern?
Swinney: Just executing. 11 guys doing their job to the best of their ability. We aren't going to see anything we aren't prepared for. They are going to bring pressure and we see pressure all the time. If a guy gets physically beat or something - I can live with that. But when 11 guys aren't all on the same page, I can't. We need 11 guys all on the same page.

There's a story in the Washington Post Frank Beamer is using the video of you presenting the tombstone from the victory earlier this year over Virginia Tech as motivation for this week. What do you think about that?
Swinney: I don't blame him. I'd do the same thing. They have a tool box. They take the grass and stick it in the tool box. I'm sure next year when they play Georgia Tech, Coach Johnson will show that video. That's just part of the game.

Does it concern you Logan Thomas has been extremely effective in the running game in recent weeks?
Swinney: Absolutely. I've seen him run a quarterback sneak for 14 yards. They run the quarterback power. He's their second leading rusher. No question.

CUTigers.com Top Stories