Inside the Interviews: Clemson and Louisville players and coaches on Tigers' win
|Sunday, September 17, 2017, 3:29 AM- -|
LOUISVILLE, KY – No. 2 Clemson dismantled No. 14 Louisville 47-21 Saturday night in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, taking early control of the ACC Atlantic Division.
After the game, players and coaches from both teams met with assembled media. Below are some of the quotes.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
“First of all, that's a great start for us in ACC play, obviously a huge division win. Any time you can go on the road and win, it's a big boost for you. We still have a lot of work to do and another big division game next week, but it takes a lot of mental toughness and focus to be able to go on the road and win. We had two goals tonight, one was to get the job done and the other was to leave no doubt. We felt like we left a little doubt in the past couple of years.
“Last year, against these guys, we turned it over five times. We came up here a couple years ago and gave up a kick return to the house. We just wanted to play good, sound, complementary football tonight and we did that in all three phases. Hats off to the guys, to our staff, we had great preparation, that's a great football team (Louisville), they're a big time challenge. We were able to possess the ball and limit their possessions, something we weren't able to do last year. We played great field position. Our punt game, we averaged over 50 yards a punt. Coverage was outstanding from a kickoff standpoint and we knocked down a couple field goals. But, it really was a great performance, we had 600-plus yards offensively.
“I love how we rushed the ball, we had some big throws and catches. Kelly (Bryant) was awesome, the big stat for Kelly was that he was 6-for-9 on third downs. We had some big-time third downs, we made some big scramble plays and that's something that he 's obviously got the ability to do. We ran the ball well, effectively and efficiently. All those guys were awesome. Big contributions in the passing game, as well. Ray Ray (McCloud) had a career-high 115 yards and a big-time touchdown. We had one touchdown called back and we missed a kick, so we had some things that we left out there. But, we just had a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, we brought 72 (players) on the trip and we played 70. It's a happy locker room in there.
“Defensively, we had one really poor drive in the first half, but we settled in and played pretty good football outside of a couple cheap ones that we gave up in the fourth, which was disappointing that we had a couple busted coverages where guys weren't where they were supposed to be. A lot of guys got some good experience and there's a lot that we can improve from. But, I'm just really proud of them, we had ten tackles for loss, six sacks. I hate that we lost Tanner (Muse), but to see Isaiah Simmons go in and play the way he played was really, really good. Just really proud of these guys, we're 3-0 and that's where we wanted to be, but we have a lot of improving to do.
“We have another opportunity next week within our division against BC at home, so we're excited about that. Our crowd was awesome, can't say enough about all the orange that traveled here. We appreciate the great environment that they gave us tonight. Health-wise, I think we came out pretty good. We've had a big time stomach bug the last few days that has affected like 15 guys. I love how some of these guys that were really sick pushed through tonight. Great victory for us and we'll keep moving forward.”
On Kelly Bryant's road performance and his season progression
“I mean, he was awesome. He had a couple of shaky moments early, he was high on a couple throws, and we missed a couple layups, to be honest with you. He just settled in, and the throws to Ray-Ray (McCloud) and Deon (Cain) got called back. The throw to Renfrow early in the game, he overthrew, he missed a few layups. Like I said, you've got to make the layups early. But, he settled in. He settled in and played a heck of a game. Made some nice scrambles with his legs, made some nice runs. And when you complement him with our backs, we really only need to get the ball to the edge. We can be tough to defend, especially when we take care of the ball. I'm just really proud of him. It takes poise, preparation, focus, confidence, and mental toughness to be able to stay locked in and just do your job. He made some big time throws, too.”
On having two punt returners late in the game
“We go safe. When we have our safe punt team in there, we can't have two 34s in the game. So, Renfrow is our safe punt guy. When we go to our punt return team, Kendall (Joseph) is not in the game, so Ray-Ray (McCloud) is in there.”
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino
“Well, we got beat in all phases. It's disappointing to me because, I really felt like we would be in the game and compete. In the first half offensively we just couldn't get anything going except for the one drive. We couldn't convert third downs and that was really the big part of the game and the big difference from a year ago. A year ago we were converting third downs and today we weren't doing it. I thought their front is very, very good. Their linebackers can run and tackle. It's a credit to their defense. Obviously we knew they were good coming in, but we didn't do the things we've been able to do offensively as far as blocking the front and making plays and completing passes, being consistent – it all works together.
“Defensively, I thought we battled in the first half. We did some good things, couldn't get any turnovers. And in the second half they just beat us up. They ran the ball at us. What really hurt us is we didn't have guys running full speed to the ball and getting people to the ball. It was always one guy missing a tackle, long run for a touchdown. The key to defense is to get people to the ball. Be gap sound. We came out of our gap on the last long run and allowed him to run down the sideline, so we didn't set edges and we didn't put pressure on their quarterback to have to throw the ball at any time during the game. He just was able to be comfortable. He did a nice job for them, he ran hard. You've got to give them credit, they are a very, very good football team, but I'm really disappointed in the way we played.”
What led to struggles in the passing game?
“The patience on the coverages. And then we did have some things, we had some pressure. I'd think it'd be interesting to watch the video and see how we worked together on the offensive front. And every once in a while we had an assignment error on the front. I think it really hurt us that they were great at linebacker and dropping deep in zone. And that's when you really have to be patient.”
On the pick six and the penalty on the previous play
“I didn't see the block - I don't know what the call was. Obviously we had a big play and brought it back. But, we really just tried to get some yardage to get in a manageable situation. He saw the linebacker. He thought to move forward but he really had good depth and he just needed to turn and give the ball to the running back. And then we didn't tackle. If the ball is intercepted, you've got to go make the tackle. There will be a lot to teach on that play for sure. That really did change the momentum. It didn't allow us to get any momentum, because they had the momentum the whole time.”
On fatigue factor
"I think the fatigue was caused by, No. 1 not being able to execute on offense and us keep the ball and be on the field. The third quarter, I don't know how many snaps we had. We were rotating guys in and we were defending the run well going into this game. They executed and did a better job than we did. It is the offense's responsibility to not let the defense be on the field that long. "
On Clemson TD in the third quarter by McCloud being a turning point
"It was a big play obviously. He ran a great route and the ball was perfectly thrown. We jumped on it and the double move, they executed it very well. Pulled the backside guard and we gave him some time to throw it, but that is a touchdown play that we've got to be able to come back from."
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Lamar was that the best defense you've played against?
“In my career in college, no we just didn't play our game today. We came out flat, we wasn't scoring points. The offense did a horrible job tonight. It's on all of us.”
You guys didn't get a 3rd down conversion in the first half, what was the cause of that?
“Not doing what we were supposed to, their defense beat us to the punch. They did a great job I'm not going to lie. The defense played a great game for Clemson and we just didn't execute.”
After you were able to comeback so well against Clemson last year, what do you think was different tonight?
“Like I said before, we weren't doing what we were supposed to. We kept getting off the field and kept putting our defense out there. Eventually you know they are going to get tired when you keep putting them out there with a fast pace offense. They did a great job on offense as well.”
How frustrating is that for you when you have to watch the defense go through that?
“Well I get mad, you know I don't like to put our defense in that situation. We are suppose to score points, that's our job and we didn't execute on that at all.”
What were those first four passes that you did, did you feel like you were pressing maybe a little bit initially?
“I think that I was too excited. I came out too excited. I wasn't calm like usual right before like the two games in the past. You know I just came out too excited. Playing Clemson again, reimagine, played a great game.”
You guys talked in build up to this game how you guys came out too hype last year at Clemson, why do you think that happens?
“You know you are playing a national championship team, they ranked number three. You try to knock them off of they throne, you get over excited and it gets you out of the game.”
What's the difference between the Florida State, Clemson Game?
“We were focused the Florida State game, we came out angry we were a lot focused. Then we came out excited we were playing the championship team like I said before and we get out there and want to show everybody what Louisville is about and we didn't show it at all.”
Louisville LB Stacy Thomas on Louisville being too excited
“I mean you can say that, I mean yeah we definitely were excited it's a big game who wouldn't be excited. Basically, I feel like we treated this game like we treated Florida State last year, the first big game at home. That's us. We play our best whenever we're amped up, and just playing to the best of our ability, when we getting to the quarterback, making tackles, fired up. That's what we do. I don't think that's an issue I mean at the end of the day we just got to execute.”
Clemson DL Christian Wilkins on playing on the road
“I honestly love playing in Louisville. The fans are very welcoming, accommodating—great atmosphere always. I love playing on the road and they don't disappoint. This is where I had my first ever road game experience my freshman year (2015). That was my first one, so I'll always have something to remember here. So, it's cool coming back here. A lot of fun. They didn't make it easy for us. It was definitely a lot of fun.”