Why Dave Clawson thanked Dabo after Clemson’s 63-3 win last year


by - Senior Writer -
Wake head coach Dave Clawson says last season's loss to Clemson turned their season around.
Wake head coach Dave Clawson says last season's loss to Clemson turned their season around.

Clemson defeated Wake Forest 63-3 last season in Winston-Salem, jumping out to a 28-0 lead at halftime and scoring three more times in the third quarter. Head coach Dabo Swinney says that Demon Deacon head coach Dave Clawson thanked him later on, and while Clawson doesn’t remember it quite that way, he does think the game paid dividends down the road.

Wake Forest rebounded from that October loss to win four of its final six games, including a 37-34 victory over Memphis in the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Swinney was asked about the difference between that Wake Forest team and this year’s version, and he said that Clawson thanked him for the loss last season.

“They’re just a little more experienced. One of the things that Dave [Clawson] told me after the game last year, it was kind of a weird deal, he thanked me," Swinney said Tuesday. "He said, ‘It was the best thing that happened to us,’ he said, ‘because it made us better.’ I think they won like maybe five in a row after us or something. They went on a winning streak after our game last year. He just felt like it kind of got some guys focused the way they needed to be and they were able to get better from it. They’re just playing with great discipline. They don’t beat themselves. Again, they’re one of the best in the country in turnovers. They’re almost 50 percent on third down. What they’re doing on offense with that quarterback, a very experienced offensive line, they’re having a lot of cohesion. The backs know what they’re doing. Those guys outside are playmakers. You’ve got guys who are going to play on Sunday. Tight end is a very good player as well. So I just think they believe in what they’re doing. I believe they’ve been able to stay relatively healthy. I think that’s key. They’ve got one of their best players out at linebacker this week, but they’ve been pretty healthy. And, again, just well-coached.”

Swinney said he can't remember when he was thanked, but Clawson said it helped Wake Forest refocus.

“I can’t remember if it was at the Spring Meetings or somewhere else where I saw him," Swinney said. "I can’t remember. I looked at him… He was disappointed and I think it was kind of a wake-up to their team and just kind of got them refocused on the things that they need to do to win games. And they did. They went on and they really responded and had a really good year.”

Clawson said he doesn’t remember thanking Swinney for the beating, but did say that Swinney doesn’t run the score up on opponents and that the loss enabled the coaching staff to make sure their team understood the urgency of the season. He also said he felt like his team quit during the loss.

“I don't remember thanking him for that game. I think sometimes Dabo is accused unfairly of running the score up,” Clawson said. “In last year's game, they had their subs and their two's in and they were just running base plays and we didn't stop them. At that point, we had a bunch of back-ups in because we were injured and after the game, I just wanted to defuse any notion that they tried to run it up and I just said, 'Hey thanks. I saw you pull your guys and if it comes up, in no way were you guys trying to run it up. You were just running base plays and we didn't stop it and it's our job to stop them.' I thanked him for that. But I don't remember thanking him for the beating that we took and that was our fault, not theirs.

“But certainly the next day at the team meeting, we had a sense that the season could turn and our response to that game was going to be critical and we had a heart-to-heart with the whole team on the things that I wasn't doing right, that I wasn't doing a very good job with and I promised to fix i. But then I showed some plays on film and that was one of the few games here that I could think you could turn on the film and say, 'Wake Forest quit.' That really bothered me. That really tore me up and I didn't sleep for a few days and I said, 'I'll own it. It's my job to prepare you but you've got to own what you're putting on this film. We own it together, we'll get better. If we point fingers at each other, it's not going to get better; it's going to get worse.' I think the response from the football team speaks for itself what happened after that game."

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