Swinney: Ask me about rankings in a few weeks

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Dabo Swinney Sunday teleconference with the media, Windows Media

CLEMSON -- The Clemson Tigers head into their final two weeks of ACC play with their first national ranking of the season, debuting at No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll, and with more injuries than they have had all season, but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it will be business as usual as the Tigers prepare for the N.C. State Wolfpack.

“Injury-wise, I'd say we're pretty bumped and bruised today,” Swinney told the media on Sunday. “We're going into our tenth ball game. C.J. is kind of his normal, banged up self. [Chris] Chancellor has an ankle sprain. I'd say we'll probably have him this week. [Michael] Palmer is sore. He has a hamstring strain. [Chad] Diehl had a bruise on his shoulder. Da'Quan [Bowers] is making good progress, but I'd say he's still questionable for this week. It'll be a day to day deal. Jamie Harper had a high thigh bruise. Outside of Da'Quan, all of them should be ready for game time Saturday."

Swinney said the ranking was nice, but he would rather be ranked a few weeks from now.

“That's fine, but it's like I told our team last night - we made this a two-horse race now coming down the backstretch, “ Swinney said. “You have to finish the line. I'll be more interested in the rankings when it's all said and done. We've still got a lot of work to do. Hopefully we can finish off the season like we want."

Swinney said that even though he knows the Tigers made a ton of mistakes against the Seminoles in Saturday’s 40-24 win, he was proud of the effort and for not giving up when they could have folded after being down 17-6 in the first quarter.

"I'm proud of the team once again for overcoming a lot,” Swinney said. “I thought they handled adversity well. We really could have put this thing away had it not been for some costly mistakes on both sides of the ball. The kids are playing hard and giving great effort. We just have to play a lot smarter and eliminate some of the critical errors.

“The second half, we had 26 points to their seven. To hold them to 17 points is critical. They got seven off a pick-six. They were scoring about 30-something a game. Hats off to our defense. Offensively we had two big missed opportunities, so that was disappointing.”

Swinney said that even though North Carolina St., this week’s opponent, has struggled this season, his team should have no problem with motivation considering everything that is at stake.

"I don't think it'll be a huge challenge,” he said. “We'll have to be smart Monday and Tuesday with how we practice this time of year. I don't have a lot of worries about getting them ready to play. They've shown up every week. They realize what's at stake. They have 13 days left in ACC play. We just have to grind it out. I think they'll be fine from that regard."

Quarterback Kyle Parker had an early interception returned for a touchdown, and a fumble negated another scoring opportunity, and Swinney said he thought Parker responded well in a big game.

“Kyle is no different than any other position,” he said. “He has to keep learning how to make some better decisions. The pick-six, the ball came out of his hand and he did not get a good throw on it. Their QB threw some big picks, too, and he was like third in the nation coming in. It's hard to be perfect, but we try to work on it. We do have to work on ball security. Outside of that, he did some good things."

Swinney also said that after allowing FSU quarterback Christian Ponder to get hot, the Clemson defense responded in a big way, especially with the game on the line.

“The biggest thing going into halftime was that Ponder was in a rhythm,” Swinney said. “He was 11 of 13. He was throwing the ball well. We came out and we got a stop.. The biggest thing in the second half was that they put that big, long drive together. We go out there and give up a 16-play drive where they had four third-down conversions on us. I didn't think we played very well in that stretch of the game.

“It was probably more execution than anything. Coach Steele and the staff did a great job. After that it was punt and interception and punt and interception. They're the No. 1 offense in the league for a reason. For us to get five takeaways against that bunch is good. We've got to eliminate big plays. We didn't do a very good job on third down. They were like 50-percent. Obviously that's too high on conversions. But we'll keep working."

Clemson kickers missed three extra points and two field goals against the Seminoles, and Swinney said there will be an “open competition” this week in practice.

“We just go back to work,” he said. “They're good kickers. I hate Spencer [Benton] didn’t make his extra point. We'll have an open competition this week and see if we can get them competing again. Richard [Jackson] had secured the job. We don't beat Miami without Richard. We win as a team and lose as a team. We'll just go back to work and get them focused on their routine. Physically, they're good kickers."

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