Highlights from Dabo Swinney weekly press conference

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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spent most of his Tuesday press conference with the media saying that his team won’t take N.C. State lightly this Saturday, and that he wants his team to play like the champions they are.

“We have to play like a champion. We won our division and we need to play like that,” Swinney said. “It's a tenth win. We haven't won 10 games here in 21 years. That's a big deal. Most of these guys weren't even born 20 years ago. It's about being our best. Being the best we can be. The best of the best are never satisfied. Lord have mercy, we have all kind of improvement to do.

“Turn on the film. We have a lot to do in order to get better. Hey- we’ve got a chance to win seven ACC games. That hasn't happened at Clemson since 1983. There's plenty on the table out there for these guys. Yes, we are the best in the division and we've earned that. Let's go from good to great. And that's going to be a tough challenge. We have to focus on playing the best we can for four quarters Saturday. This is a very important game.”

The Wolfpack has just four wins, but Swinney that head coach Tom O’Brien’s team is not one to be taken lightly.

“We are back on the road this week and playing at a tough place at N.C. State,” he said. “They have a tough environment up there. They are a very capable team. They've gone to Virginia, a team that controls its destiny in the Coastal Division, and beaten them. They shut out North Carolina. We have to play much better than we did last week if we want to win. Their quarterback has a big arm. He throws the football in some tight spots. He's a very good player. They play a couple of running backs – James Washington has been around and is very talented. He catches the ball very well. He's very involved in their passing game. We'll have to do a good job there.

“They have three receivers who they spread the ball out to. They all have 30 catches. We will have to matchup well with them. Their tight end [George Bryan] is always involved. Coach O'Brien always does a good job of involving the tight end in the attack. The center is outstanding. The left tackle is as well. Defensively, they are playing their best football right now. They are playing really tough on defense. Three of the top 12 tacklers in this conference. We know all about David Amerson - he has 10 picks and we recruited him hard. He has 10 picks and they have 20 as a team. That's a big concern for us after having turned the ball over the last two ball games.”

On Tajh Boyd’s recent struggles

“We've had seven turnovers in the last two ball games, and eight in the first seven. Heck yes that's a concern. We've just got to be smarter. A couple of them have been kind of flukey. It's ball security. As I said Sunday on the phone, Tajh and his success is sometimes not a positive because he has so much confidence he can make through every throw. He thinks he can throw it through this camera lens in front of me. He's special. And he has so much confidence in his receivers that these guys are going to make a play for him and bail it out. But the last couple of weeks we've got teams dropping eight guys. So we have to be smart. We had third and 18 Saturday and if he checks down we get 20 yards. We just have to dial him back and be a little more disciplined. You don't want to lose his mentality because that's one of the things that makes him special. We'll coach him hard and do a better job than the last couple of weeks. He's played 10 games as a starter and he'll have a chance to start over 40 games in his career and he's only 25 percent of the way there. He's still an improving player and a learning player. I love how he never quits. I love how he always responds. That's really good for us.”

On needing to start faster in games and not come from behind

“Well that's a great thing to have in your football program to never quit. At the end of the day it's a 60 minute game. You aren't going to win every game by 21 points. Every football game is a microcosm of life. Good things happen, bad things happen. We've come back now from 14 points or more three times. That's a good quality but we have to get out of those situations to begin with. That's part of where we are right now as a football team. We are making mistakes - we go into the half at 14-7 and you are playing a championship caliber team. You have to give the other team a ton of credit ... but you have a touchdown run back on you on a punt. Then you fumble. Then they score and score again. And we didn't even blink. But we came back and our offense was explosive. We never feel like we are out of it. There's never a sense of panic with this football team. They believe in what we are doing and understand the problem. We have to get more guys really committed to performing consistently at the level they are capable of performing every single play. That's our issue right now. Sometimes we'll have nine of 11. Or eight out of 11. When you are playing a solid team and you don't have everybody on the same page- mistakes leads to issues. We didn't punt the ball well the other day - 30-something yard punt with a three second hang time. But we came back, got stops and won the game. “

On Sammy Watkins

“It's really going to be up to him. We are going to keep getting him ready to play. He looked a lot better yesterday. He felt better. It will probably be on game day. It depends on how he feels. This is the most important game right here. If he's not 100 percent and he's not confident then we'll hold him. If we were playing the championship game this week, he would definitely play. No question. I've had the injury - you can play with it but it's painful. You get a shot and you go play. It takes a little bit of time off from pounding (to heal). We'll see where he is by Saturday. If he's not still there yet, then we'll hold him. It's going to be determined. “

On Coty Sensabaugh

“He has really improved. He had some issues with his size when he got here, but he has really grown into his role. No. 2 [Chris Givens for Wake} had what, two catches Saturday? And he was the leading receiver in the ACC. That was because Coty was up in his grill all day.”

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