Swinney happy with win but still a lot of work to do

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Clemson Tigers Michael Palmer makes a one hand grab and rushes for a touch down against the University of Miami Hurricanes. (Photos: Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI)
Clemson Tigers Michael Palmer makes a one hand grab and rushes for a touch down against the University of Miami Hurricanes. (Photos: Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI)

CLEMSON -- Clemson head coach held his weekly teleconference with the media Sunday afternoon, and sounded like a man who had had a million pounds lifted off his shoulders.

Swinney said that after looking at the film of Saturday’s 40-37 overtime thriller win over the 8th-ranked Miami Hurricanes, he was pleased with how his team responded in the fourth and overtime against a quality opponent on the road.
"Defensively they fought hard, and they won the fourth quarter and overtime,” Swinney said. “We had four takeaways and three sacks, did a good on screens, but did not do a good job versus the run and on first and third down. 282 of their yards came on 10 plays, and that's disappointing. We have to do a better job on some of our route leverage. But again, they made a critical stop at the end to get us the ball back.

“They made a big, big stop in overtime to hold them to a field goal. A lot of great individual efforts on defense. [Kevin] Alexander was tremendous. Ricky [Sapp] played his best game in a while. [Marcus] Gilchrist was very good. Chris Chancellor, outside of the one big play, I felt he did pretty good.”

Swinney said he was also pleased with play of redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker, who was named National Freshman of the Week by Rivals on Sunday, and left tackle Chris Hairston.

"I thought Kyle played very well,” Swinney said. “He had some mistakes with ball security, but he's a freshman and he's getting better. Chris Hairston got player of the game. He probably played the best game of his career. He had three knockdowns [blocks] and four cuts and graded at 85-percent.”

Swinney said that tight end Michael Palmer, who suffered a brutal hit and a slight concussion after a fourth quarter hit, was feeling better, but would be held out of practice for a few days while the team assesses his condition.

"We'll probably hold him out the next couple of days. We've got a couple of guys with a few bumps and bruises. Hopefully we'll get Scotty Cooper back this week.”

Of particular importance for Swinney was that his team finally won a close game, and was able to make a play at the end of a game when a big play was needed.

"We've been in these situations before and didn't capitalize on opportunities,” he added. “This time we got what we needed to win the game. We turned a page today and the team will come in tomorrow and get ready for Coastal. We'll get re-focused and show some maturity and being able to come back and try to keep the momentum going. The staff did a great job. We had great poise the whole game. I'm really happy with the win. But still a lot of work to do."

Swinney was asked about the importance of C.J. Spiller, and he reiterated his thoughts from Saturday when he said that Spiller was the best player in the country.

“If you're looking at MVPs and Heismans, I don't know if there's any player in the country who's more valuable to his team than C.J. Spiller,” Swinney said. “A lot of coaches coach their whole lives and never get a chance to coach a guy like C.J. Spiller. For me, it's very special.

“I went to church today and there comes C.J. Spiller walking in. He's very humble. Nobody impacts his team more than this guy. He's big-time special. I'm very blessed to have an opportunity to coach a guy like that."

Swinney was asked how he thought the team would respond now that they control own destiny in the ACC, and Swinney said with the number of mistakes made on Saturday, that the Tigers have to just concentrate on getting better.

“We're just going to get ready for the next game,” Swinney said. “We're just focused on getting better. We're going to try to get these mistakes corrected. Even had we beaten Georgia Tech and TCU, we'd still have those issues. But I think our kids will respond well. They came off a big win against Wake, came back and responded well against Miami. I don't expect us to have a letdown. Our focus will be on Coastal. It's the biggest game of the year or us right now. It'll have our full attention, I assure you.”

Swinney was also asked about Spiller, and why the senior running back was on the sidelines several times during Saturday’s contest, and he said that it was simply a matter of getting him a rest after a busy day, not due to injury.

"We've got other good players, and we're trying to keep those guys as fresh as we possibly can,” Swinney said. “We knew it was going to be that kind of game. I think he [Spiller] had 35 snaps offensively, but he's also playing returns and does a lot of running.

“It’s nice when you have No. 17 [Jamie Harper’s number on Saturday] and No. 23 [Andre Ellington] who can go in and play. Hopefully in the fourth you can have them all fresh. We go into the game with a rotation. As we get going, it's by feel and instinct and where they are."

Swinney said that there will indeed be a tombstone, but announced no plans have been made for it as of yet, and then said the one thing that made the Miami win so special was because of Clemson fans.

"Nobody deserves it more than our fans,” Swinney said. “Our fans deserve this win. That’s where I have the majority of my gratification. They can feel good about it. We had a lot of Clemson people down there. At the end of the game, there were still Clemson people out there while we were trying to get on the bus. We get back last night at 12:30 and there are a ton of students and fans out there to greet us off the bus. They deserve that and our kids do, because our kids work so hard."

The final question of the day centered on Clemson’s lack of respect from a national perspective, and Swinney said that winning takes care of all of that.

"We've got to win,” Swinney said. “If we get one of those different schedules around here, we'd be sitting here 6-1. But I don't want to change anything. Let's play the best and get better. That's going to help us grow as a program. That's football. Bottom line, nobody cares about how the game is played. They look at whether you win.

“But if you have seen us play, I think it would be hard not to respect our team. I don't think anybody would be real excited about lining up and playing us. You have to win games to get national respect. Hopefully we can do our part and all that stuff will come in due time. We're just trying to get better."

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