"Total Chaos": Swinney brags on his team after difficult 2020 season

by - Senior Writer -
Swinney described the 2020 season as total chaos.
Swinney described the 2020 season as total chaos.

Clemson has a big game this weekend against Notre Dame with an ACC Championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff on the line. But head coach Dabo Swinney spent the opening ten minutes of Tuesday’s press conference bragging on the accomplishments of a team that has faced perhaps the most difficult season in history.

No. 3 Clemson and No. 2 Notre Dame face off in Charlotte Saturday at Bank of America Stadium (4 pm, ABC) in the ACC Championship Game, but Swinney wanted to talk about the challenges his team has faced.

"No team that I have had has faced the challenges this team has faced. 2020, whatever we're dealing with, will either shine you up or grind you up and I told them in June I knew they were made of the right stuff,” Swinney said. “2020 has shined up this bunch. We have seen the heart, character, resiliency and resolve of this team. Same thing with this staff. One of the greatest moments I have had in my life has been with this team here in 2020 where they have accomplished some amazing things.

"We are the first Power Five team to go to six consecutive conference title games. We are in a position to have our 10th consecutive 10-win season. We would be only the third team to ever do that. Our seniors got their 50th win and tied the ACC record with 31 ACC wins and became the first senior group here to be undefeated their entire career at home. This senior group has never been outside of the top 10.”

Swinney continued with the astounding numbers.

"Offensively we have scored 34 points in 10 consecutive games, only the second ACC team to do that. We had 400+ yards in 10 straight games,” Swinney said. “The only other Clemson team to do that was 2018. Our 72 400-yard games since 2015 is the most in the country. Travis Etienne came back for his senior year and is leaving here as the conference's all-time leading rusher. He is the only player in the country this year to have 750-yards rushing and 500-yards receiving. Trevor Lawrence is 8-0 this year and that moved him to 33-1 as our starting quarterback, making him the winningest QB in program history.

“D.J. Uiagalelei led us to the largest comeback in Death Valley (history) this year. Defensively we are on pace to finish in the top 10 in total defense for the seventh consecutive year. We are second in the nation in sacks. Coach Venables has had 23 different guys start. Our average under him since he has been here is 16 (starters). And amidst all of this, we have provided structure and support for 120+ young men with the largest pandemic in our nation in 100 years. We've had 40 different guys start this year, 26 of them for the first time in their careers. We will have 16 guys graduate tomorrow and Thursday, which will bring our total to 23 heading into the postseason."

With the pandemic and the protocols in place and the ever-changing target, Swinney said he could explain the 2020 season in just a few words.

"Total chaos. Unprecedented. No roadmap. Driving in the dark with no headlights,” Swinney said. “That's why I am thankful to the good lord. He gave me a little lamp so that I could see just enough to keep moving. I can go back to Pelham, Alabama, and don't need any headlights. But these are roads no one has driven. The whole world shut down. Fear. You have all the issues in the world. It's just really, really challenging."

Swinney was finally able to move on to the Irish, and he was asked if revenge was a motivating factor in the game.

"We just move on to the next game. Always have. Our guys know that this is a team that beat us the last time we played them. This is the next game,” Swinney said. “What happened in the first game - and what a great game it was - is in the past. They made more plays than we did. It's all about this game, these next four quarters. Nothing carries over. The margin for error is still small. You can want to get revenge or whatever but that doesn't catch the ball or fit the gaps properly. You have to be locked in on doing your job and fundamentals. Even had we won, we would still have a lot of mistakes to clean up. It's about championship execution for us."

The Tigers will have help on quarterback Ian Book with defensive end Xavier Thomas, who missed the first half of the first game after a targeting call against Boston College.

"He was out the first half due to the targeting rule. All of those guys ... we have to fit the run and match their physicality. We have to play with more precision in what we do defensively,” Swinney said. “We were poor with our leverage and our eyes at times in that first game. And when you do that, they can expose you quickly. We have to tackle better. We have to make the layups. Hey, they're going to make plays. These guys are 10-0. They are a really good team. We just have to do a better job. They were 10-of-19 on third down. We were not efficient on either side of the ball."

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