Coach Dabo Swinney recalls a lesson Gene Stallings picked up from golf great Ben Hogan as Clemson's Atlantic Division fate awaits this Saturday.
Just bursting to ask throughout the round, Stallings finally worked up the nerve along the 15th fairway and asked: "Hey, Mr. Hogan. You're playing in the Masters, in the PGA, in the British Open and you stand up on there on that green when your opponent is getting ready to putt--if he misses it, you're going to win. Do you ever stand over there and say, ‘God, I hope he misses it.'?"
No sooner than Stallings finished the question, Hogan quickly stood on the cart's breaks. He shot a look at the young coach and said: "If I win, it's because I played my very best--not because my opponent played bad."
Swinney preaches the same lesson: "I don't worry about my opponent." It's a group that he feels should be ready to beat a Virginia team that's started out as s a 20-point underdog.
Though a Boston College loss to North Carolina could have the Tigers in the ACC Championship before the Tigers and Cavaliers kickoff, it doesn't make a difference to Swinney, who wants to "increase the habit of winning around here by staying committed to doing the little things right."
"If we're going to be a championship team, we've got to take care of business," he said during Sunday's teleconference.
Business was indeed taken care against N.C. State. Swinney called the 43-23 win in Raleigh on Saturday the offense's best game of the season.
"All three of our backs ran well…we've got a lot of guys stepping up," he said. "The blocking down field has been very good.
"Guys are hustling, but we still left some yards out on the field."
That's what Swinney told C.J. Spiller when the Heisman Trophy candidate asked for one more carry so he could have another chance to top 100 yards.
"I told him he left it on the field," Swinney said after the game.
Defensively, he'd like to see the penalties on defense cut down. Swinney said that was the biggest disappointment. The 20 quarterback pressures, two sacks and interception were all good things. He would have preferred fewer pressures and more sacks.
"We had some missed tackles. A couple of them were sack opportunities," he said.
Four third-down penalties added a little frustration to what Swinney called the "most complete road game" this season.
"That led to some opportunities for them to keep drives going," he said.
For a second-straight week, field goal and extra-point kicking continues to be a headache.
"I thought Spencer Benton had a really good day outside of his last kickoff and he missed one extra-point," Swinney said. "One wasn't very good hold. Michael (Wade) just couldn't get the ball down. Then, he just missed one."
Benton and Richard Jackson will compete for place kicking duties this week. The decision as to who it will be could come as late as game-time.
Thomas Austin has a mid-foot sprain. Swinney they'll be cautious with Austin the first three days this week.
"He'll mentally practice. My hope is to have him out there Thursday. I anticipate him playing in the game, but won't know for a couple of more days," Swinney said.
Da'Quan Bowers will be "cut loose" this week after a two week break with a knee sprain. Swinney said Bowers is mentally ready to play.
"I'm expecting him to play this week, based on what I've seen," Swinney said. "He's got to get out there and go cut, plant and bang around a little bit. I can't be 100 percent until we saw how he reacts to that."
One week of practice and a win lies between Clemson and a second chance at Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship. One thing that's surely to be repeated in some form or fashion this week, the Tigers haven't earned that shot yet.
"We're right where we want to be. I don't think we can afford to look ahead," Swinney said.
Dabo Swinney's Sunday teleconference
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