Swinney: It was a wild and wacky game last night, but a lot of good things. All wins are great wins in my vision, just proud of our guys. The big thing is we responded to adversity last night, getting down. You're up quick and next thing you know you're down 24-13. I really liked how our team responded and liked how our staff responded. A lot of great things accomplished in the game and throughout our season, to this point, to be honest with you.
Offensively, 754 yards of total offense, did a lot of good things. Offensive line was outstanding. They were leading the league in sacks and we gave up none. The big penalty that we had was a 50-yard run called back. We had some uncharacteristic drops, which was disappointing, a couple of turnovers. The good news is we still haven't played our best game. We've got a lot to challenge these guys with this week.
Defensively, obviously, it was a poor first half. The really big disappointment was they had four one-play touchdowns. That was 28 points that were just bam, bam, bam, bam. But I thought we really came back and played a strong second half. We held them to one touchdown that I would put on the defense. The interception, we gave them a short field and the same thing on the kick return. The sacks were big, stopping them on fourth-down a couple of downs. We had the two turnovers that we created that led to points, just competed with great effort all night long. Special teams, we blocked another kick. Cat Man hit a couple of big field goals. The biggest disappointment was the big plays we gave up and our kickoff coverage was really poor, a lot of mistakes, still improving.
Another opportunity this week to try and go put it all together, that's what we're going to have to do. We've got to have great preparation. This is an outstanding football team we're getting ready to play. We'll have to play very well and execute at a high level of consistency for four quarters to win the game. I look forward to getting really diving into the film here tonight, as we put the other one to bed. Again, [a] great opportunity for us. I'm proud of the team and look forward to great competition this week.
How do you feel Brandon Thomas has played this past month? He has a big challenge on Saturday against Clowney. How do you feel like he's prepared for this challenge?
Swinney: He's had a good year. He was kind of up and down, consistency-wise, for a little while. The last few weeks he's really put it together, in particular these last couple of ball games. He's played outstanding football. He's played a lot of snaps and really not had many mental errors. Our offensive line, as a whole, has probably had their best couple of ball games here -- Duke, Maryland, N.C. State -- they have really played well as a unit. That's been the good thing. They're just kind of putting it together as a group. That's what you want to see. That's what you have to have on the offensive line. The last two games, we've played the team that's led the league in sacks and given up zero. You rush the ball for 320-something yards against a team that has not given up a lot of rushing yards, there are some guys up front getting it done. I'm just really proud of that group and the pride that they've taken in trying to just get better. The leadership of Dalton Freeman has been awesome. Robbie Caldwell has done a fantastic job of preparing them every single week, and challenging them.
From what you have seen of South Carolina this year, what are your impressions?
Swinney: Same old South Carolina, in what we've seen the last two or three years. It's a very talented group. This will be as good a team as we've played. They're right there, for sure, with Florida State, who is, obviously, an outstanding team. Their defense is just lights out, with the type of personal that they have. They create a lot of pressure, a lot of the same guys back from last year that played against us. Obviously [Marcus] Lattimore is not there, but this quarterback really killed us last year. They've got some playmakers outside. We're just kind of really getting into studying and breaking them down, personnel-wise, but I've seen them a couple of times on TV. They're outstanding in the return game. Shoot, the way we covered the other night, that's a big concern. We've got our hands full. We're going to have to execute very consistently for four quarters and put it all together on Saturday night.
On the night game this weekend…
Swinney: It's more a place for fans. They have a full day to enjoy Clemson. It'll be a great atmosphere. This is a rare opportunity. I can't remember. It's either the second or third time that both teams are top 10 teams playing each other. It's a great opportunity for our state to showcase this game.
Do you think these types of rankings will be more commonplace in this rivalry, going forward?
Swinney: If both schools continue to recruit well, I would say that's a strong possibility. There's no doubt about it. Time will tell.
You and Steve Spurrier have fired a few verbal volleys back and forth over the last year. Do you enjoy that part of the rivalry? How would you categorize your relationship?
Swinney: Whenever I'm around him, our relationship has always been very cordial. I've got a lot of respect for him as a football coach and the success he's had. Listen, it's not about me or coach Spurrier. It's about the guys playing in the game. That's where we need to keep the focus.
Have you seen a defensive end talent like Clowney, especially one that's his age and what he's done as a sophomore?
Swinney: He's special. Just what I thought he would be coming out of high school. He was a great, great high school player. The thing I liked most about him in high school, he never took plays off. You turn on the film and he played at a high level of effort and intensity in high school. Especially, as he's kind of gotten stronger over this past year, he just plays relentless, plays with great effort. He's a smart player, understands the game. He's gotten more physical. He's the whole package, that's for sure.
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