Tigers turning full attention to the Gamecocks

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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had his weekly teleconference with the media on Sunday, and talking about the rivalry game between the Tigers and Gamecocks, which happens to be this Saturday, was front and center for the team even though a division championship is still just a day old.

However, when he was asked if he would like to move the game to earlier in the season, the answer was an unequivocal no.

“No, I like it right where it's at,” Swinney said. “I like the rivalry game being the last week. That's the way it's been my entire life. When I was at Alabama for 13 years, we always played Auburn the last week. It's important to both fan bases. It's a state rivalry.

“It’s a little bit different here in that it's ACC versus SEC. That's what it’s for. It's for bragging rights. That's really about it. It's not going to win us a championship or knock us out of a championship. It's for good old fashioned bragging rights."

The question was asked if the game has a significant impact on recruiting, and Swinney said he really didn’t think so.

"I guess it could be,” he said. “They're going to get who they're going to get. We're going to get who we're going to get. I don't know that one game will make that big a deal. We won't really worry about it like that. We just want to win the game because it's important."

The Tigers captured their first-ever Atlantic Division title on Saturday, and Swinney said it happened to a deserving group of players.

"Winning the division championship, it's a good thing for these guys,” Swinney said. “They've worked awful hard and deserve it. The players of the game were Kavell Conner on defense. He was outstanding. The offensive player of the game was Jacoby Ford. Great, great night for him. Had a career night in all purpose yards. Our special teams player of the game was Tig Willard. He's a young man we think has a great future here. I was happy for him.”

One note of concern was the fact the Tigers gave up 21 points and 230 yards to a Virginia offense that been struggling, but Swinney said the problems will be corrected.

"Defensively, we did not play very well the first half, obviously, giving up three touchdowns,” he said. “Guys were playing really hard. We just didn't do little things right, like contain and cover the people we were supposed to cover. It's all about finishing the game and they came back in the second half and were disruptive with seven sacks. Chris Chancellor probably had the best game in the secondary. The defensive tackles were solid. Kevin Alexander continues to be a dominant player for us. Andre Branch is another guy who keeps jumping out at me.”

Swinney also said that his redshirt freshman quarterback continues to impress him.

"Kyle Parker continues to get better. He's now the winningest freshman quarterback in the country. That's a great accomplishment by him. I thought our running backs ran extremely hard. The wide outs and tight ends caught the ball well. The offensive line had another good game. We only rushed for 56 yards on Virginia last year and had 130 something this week. They're a tough, tough team to prepare for.

"Michael Palmer is a guy who keeps jumping out. He's got 30 catches now and needs ten more for an all-time Clemson single-season record. I was happy for C.J. as well. And I can't say enough about coach [Andre] Powell. He had his hands full. They had done it all in looking at UVA. Fake punts, fake field goals, but I thought coach Powell had a great plan put together and executed.”

Swinney then said that now the emotions have passed, it is now time for the Tigers to give their full attention to the Gamecocks.

"We have to move on quickly. We've been at it all day. We have to turn the page to get ready for South Carolina, a good South Carolina team. We have to burn the oil a lot over the next two days getting caught up. We're excited about going to Columbia to play them."

The head coach was asked if he thought the players would have a problem turning the page, and Swinney said he thought the coaching staff would do a good job in having the players prepared.

“I think that's one of the best things our staff has done,” Swinney said. “We go on to the next game. We go to the next play. It's no different this week. They knew they won the division before yesterday but still played with great effort. If we line up and play, we have a standard of excellence that we're committed to.

“As long as we stay committed to that, we'll be OK. We'll prepare the same, exact way. Thanksgiving Day will be different for us, but we'll dial our kids back in. This is an important game. It's not an ACC game, but it's important to this state and this program. We’re looking forward to it."

The Tigers came out of the Virginia contest in relatively good health, including defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who returned Saturday after a two-game absence.

"He's doing good. He was able to play about 13-14 snaps. He moved around good. That's about what we were hoping to do with him to just kind of try to test the water. His confidence should be high tomorrow. I think he'll be ready to go in a full-blown role next weekend."

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