Swinney previews Wake Forest, talks about 2008 game that led to Bowden's ousting

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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
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’s weekly Tuesday press conference in the WestZone was less about this week’s game against Wake Forest and more about the Tigers’ 12-7 Thursday night loss to the Demon Deacons in 2008.

That game turned out to be the last game coached by former head coach Tommy Bowden, and Swinney said it was a game in which nothing went right for the Tigers.

“It was a nightmare. We couldn't do anything right. Goodness,” Swinney said of that 2008 game. “It was a long, long night and a long trip back. On Monday there was an interim head coach. It was a tough, tough deal. Tough deal. It was kind of culmination of the season. Just couldn't get anything going.”

Swinney said his life has changed dramatically since that game.

“Sometimes I sit and reflect and am blown away how quickly life can change,” he said. “It's been that way my whole life as far as trying to stay focused on the things I believe in and trying to do a good job of where you are and preparing yourself for opportunities - even if they don't ever come. I try to use that as a positive when I go to speak. You never know when your opportunity will come. Or how it will come. Or who's paying attention. But I'm thankful. Thankful to lead this program and focus on getting better. Proud of this program. Proud of this group. A lot of good things have happened. Looking back four years ago, we've come a long ways and hopefully we can continue to get better.”

Swinney said the days that followed are a blur.

“I came in and went recruiting Friday night. Me and Billy Napier went recruiting in North Carolina - went to see a receiver,” Swinney said. “We went up there and we weren't very well greeted by some folks coming off that disappointing loss. We just played so bad. Wake was a good program but we really played bad that particular game. Then Saturday was with my kids and that was it. We were here on Sunday and Monday morning early. That was it. We had a staff meeting that morning and we actually had the devotion that morning and I had it. We were doing blitz pickup and then Andy Johnston comes in and says Coach Bowden wants to see you guys at 10 in the morning.”

He said that Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips basically pointed at him in a meeting and told him he would be the interim coach, and said he was stunned to learn that Bowden would no longer be the head coach.

“He [TDP] walked in. It was very emotional. I'm sitting there in sweat pants and a sweat shirt on a Monday morning,” Swinney said. “He said I'm sorry this happened but we have to move forward. He told me, 'Dabo you are now the head coach.' You are calling the shots and you need to be in my office in five minutes. What would your reaction be? Then he left. You can imagine the emotion in the room. Guys saying this and that. Calling wives. It was a raw moment. Then it got quiet. I had no clue what to say. That was it. About an hour later I met with every one of them individually and we tried to make it work. And everybody did that. Those guys did a tremendous job. Outside of the two coordinators I kept everybody. All of those guys' contracts were coming up. I played the hand that I was dealt and did what I thought was right.”

On Wake Forest

“It’s a short week but I like how our guys have worked. They came back in Sunday with purpose to them. They have kind of embraced the opportunity in front them. Both teams have the same amount of prep time. Wake Forest is 4-3. The Florida State game got away from them early. They are a very competitive team as always. They are always tough. They always play us tough. And we say it every year, but they are as well a coached team as any team in the country. They do a phenomenal job. Offensively, they haven't changed a whole lot. It's a lot of misdirection, screens and crossers.

“ A bunch of formations. The biggest challenge is when you don't get lined up properly. They busted a bunch of big runs on us last year when we didn't do that. Their quarterback is good. Very capable. They are missing a bunch of guys from last year but their offensive line is improving. They do a great job with their personnel. Defensively, they do a great job. They understand their scheme. They move around a lot. We have to do a good job of communicating. They move all the time.

“ That No. 50 up front is a handful. He does a great job. Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
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#55 6-5, 265
Pelion, SC

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has his hands full blocking him. They are a 3-4 scheme with an odd front and they create pressure from their linebackers. I think their secondary is very good. They do a good job of route reading. They do a good job of technique. Our receivers have to be technically sound and not tip things and compete their tails off.”

On if short week helps offense get over struggles

“I hope so. These things - you just have to execute. He didn't play his best game offensively. We didn't play well up front. We only had two guys grade winners. Inconsistent. Hopefully that will have some impact. It shouldn't. We practice every day and this is the eighth game of the year. Just put that one behind you and get back dialed in.”

“I think his head was perfect. He had a good week of practice. Sometimes you just screw up. Sometimes you make a bad play. It's more of just mechanical. If you watch the throw to Nuk, he doesn't transfer weight to his front foot so it sailed on him. Sometimes you just show some human tendencies. He just didn't play a great game. It's all about do you lead your team to victory? And he did. And he did it in a gutsy away. Sometimes I feel like Tajh feels like he has to explain everything. But you know what? It was just a bad play. The key to me is he's just managing the game better. Last year he would have moments like that and get worse. Georgia Tech game was a perfect example of that. He would never get out of it and would keep making mistakes. He wouldn't let that stuff go.”

On the challenge of being the road team

“Well, we are on 1-9 on Thursday nights. We got to live with that. I've had one Thursday night since I've been a head coach when we went down to Georgia Tech. Had a tough penalty late in the game. Played hard and had a few mistakes early. It's tough to win on the road in any league. It's a challenge. But the big thing from a travel standpoint it about evens out. We had a home game for a noon game this weekend. They had a road game at Virginia. The big thing for us is that we miss some class. We lose a whole day of game prep. We'll go a little bit longer tomorrow than what we would typically do on a Friday and then we'll load up and go. Still have some good meeting time Thursday. We just have to be who you are. It's not like you have to transform yourself on offense and defense. Let's study the film and prepare. They are going to be who they are and we are going to be who we are.”

On the defense gaining momentum

“That's big. We are gaining confidence. That's a big thing -particularly with young people. They have steadily improved over the course of the season. That's the thing I like to see. I think they are learning and growing up. We are playing hard. Even not playing great early in the season. We've done a good job in the red zone all year long. They keep playing. They keep fighting. They battle their tails off and they've had some huge stops all year long. By the end of the year, we have a chance to be pretty good on defense and all of those guys are coming back.”

On getting a night game in Death Valley

“[Tim] Bourret was telling me that yesterday. The last five years we've had 17 road night games and three home night games. Everybody is scared of the Valley at night. We don't control that. We just play them when they say play them. These four and five AM mornings take a toll on you. Heck we played at 3:30 at Boston College and didn't get home until 3:30 in the morning.”

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