CFP Transcript: Dabo Swinney, Lawrence on Fiesta Bowl win, LSU


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Clemson is back in the natty again
Clemson is back in the natty again

Below is a transcript of the CFB teleconference with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and linebacker Chad Smith with the media on Monday.

THE MODERATOR: At this time we will open the line up for Coach Swinney to make some opening comments and then our operator will explain the process for media members joining us who would like to ask questions. Coach Swinney?

DABO SWINNEY: Okay, well, first of all, just really want to just recap the other night and just what an incredible game by both teams. Just an unbelievable fight and will to win by both teams, and just super proud of our guys for finding a way to get it done against a great Ohio State team, a team that was very well-prepared, very well-coached, and just came down to the wire.

In the end, we pride ourselves on trying to finish in the fourth quarter, and we had to go 94 yards against the best defense in the country to get the lead, and then we had to stop the No. 1 offense in the country to keep it. And so I'm just proud of our guys for how they fought, how they handled adversity. You get down 16-0, and then to come back and score 29 to their seven, it's really all you need to know about who we are as a team, the leadership of the team, the character of the team and the fight.

So just unbelievable night. Long trip back, but we're excited about being in this next game and having an opportunity to compete against LSU.

I've had a chance to see them a few times this year, and they've just played flawless, really, all year long. Unbelievable what their quarterback has done, and just a complete football team in every sense of the word. Haven't watched a play of tape yet, but everybody – we got back late last night, so everybody has got a day today just to decompress, and then as coaches we'll get back at it tomorrow and start putting a great plan together to give our guys a chance to go compete.

But excited about it, and again, just really proud of our team, and happy for our seniors that they get this opportunity.

Coach, just wanted to ask first if everybody is in pretty good shape from an injury standpoint, and second, that game kind of seemed like the National Championship game against Alabama a little bit defensively in which Ohio State was able to move the ball well, especially in the first half, but you really bowed up in the red zone and were able to force them to field goals. I know you have a great defense in general, maybe the best in the country, but y'all have allowed the fewest touchdowns in the red zone of anybody all season. I'm curious why you think your defense is even better in the red zone.

DABO SWINNEY: Well, it's a tighter state. Red zone defense and red zone offense are both something that we take a lot of pride in. It's hard to score down there. That's usually one of the keys that I thought coming into the game. I've said this a couple times, and I told our guys, both teams can make big plays. Just because you make a big play, that doesn't mean you score. We've got to be great on red zone offense, and just because you give up a big play, that doesn't mean they score, because we're going to be great on red zone defense.

I felt like how both teams played in those areas would be a real critical factor. But we take a lot of pride in it. And again, you don't have as much space to cover. It's hard to score against good teams in the red zone. You don't have a vertical threat, so it just comes down to being able to run the ball. Your quarterback usually has to make some plays for you, and then it's match-ups, being able to win the match-ups.

Our guys have done a great job there all year, and again, it was the difference in the game last night because again, obviously we did not start off very well. We gave up some – gave up a couple poor really big plays where we just didn't do our job.

But I'll tell you, the play by Tanner Muse was probably as big a play as there was in the game because of his effort, and I think that one play is the epitome of our program, and just his effort and fight to go and just give it all he's got to try to get Dobbins down on that one long run there was awesome, because that gave us a chance to play red zone defense, and we held them to a field goal, which obviously at the end there changes things if they only need a field goal as opposed to a touchdown to win it.

So just really proud of our guys, and again, their poise, and did not panic or anything like that. Just kind of stayed the course, and then our offense got it going, made some big plays ourselves, and were able to finish when we got down there.

That's really it. Just details and guys doing their job.

And no injuries to report? Ross's shoulder is okay and everything like that?

DABO SWINNEY: Oh, there ain't nobody okay. Are you kidding me? We just came out of a 15-round bout. Coaches are sore. We're all sore. Everybody is beat up. That was an unbelievable game.

But again, our guys finished. Everybody who got hurt came back. It was just unbelievable to watch.

Everybody will be ready to go on the 13th, that's for sure, but today everybody – I hope everybody is still asleep. Like I said, long flight, getting back, and players are off today and tomorrow just to recover, and we'll get back with them on Wednesday.

Dabo, can you explain to me how Nolan Turner goes from getting like no scholarship offers to making that interception in a CFP semifinal?

DABO SWINNEY: That's God's plan. That's all I can tell you. He's an unbelievable player. He's talented. Same reason Tom Brady is a sixth-round draft pick. I mean, people miss. It's that simple. Adam Humphries makes $9 million a year, and he had one offer: Us. One Division I offer. Grady Jarrett was a two-star D-tackle and a fifth-round draft pick, and he's probably the second highest paid D-tackle in the NFL.

It's more than – just because somebody labels you as something or don't label you as something, that doesn't mean that's the way it's going to be. That's just the way it is. A lot of work. I think football is a developmental game. Guys get better. So I think the recruiting process is really not good because you have so many people making decisions on ninth and tenth graders and miss out on a lot of seniors.

You know, a perfect example is our roster. I didn't know who Isaiah Simmons was or K'Von Wallace was until 10 days before signing day of their senior year. Never heard of them.

With Nolan Turner, that 2015 National Championship, we weren't recruiting DBs. I didn't have any scholarships for DBs, and all of a sudden after that game, T.J. Green, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Travis Blanks all come to me and tell me that they're not coming back, and so I didn't know until after the game.

Next thing you know, we've got, oh, about three weeks to go to find some DBs. You know who we signed? We signed Trayvon Mullen, who's now with the Raiders, we signed K'Von Wallace – I knew who Trayvon was but I had never heard of K'Von. We hadn't recruited him at all. Nobody, we had never made one call to Isaiah Simmons, we got Isaiah Simmons, and then I went back and watched Nolan Turner's tape, and I couldn't figure out why – because we didn't have a spot. We weren't recruiting Nolan.

All of a sudden now we've got a spot and we're looking, and I watched his tape, his highlight, and I'm looking at it and I'm going, this guy can play. I called his coach, and I was like, Why does he not have any – and his exact words, he said, I have no idea, he's as good a player as I've had in 50 years here being the head coach at Vestavia.

So then I took it down and I took it to Brent, and I said, Hey, I want you to watch this guy. Brent watched it, and he's like, Man, who's this guy, where is he at, and I said, That's all I needed to know.

Like I said, just God's plan. Just working that out. That's all I can tell you.

And then Nolan has worked his butt off to become a good player. He had a big interception in the Cotton Bowl last year. But the biggest thing, I just love his heart. I love his fight. He's not afraid to make a mistake. He missed a couple plays, but man, when it came back, and the interesting thing was his interception was in the exact same spot that the touchdown on 4th and 2 was, almost – his feet were almost in the same spot. I just think that's a great visual, that hey, sometimes God takes you right back to your failure, right? So it was really cool.

You've been asked a lot this year about the narrative that's surrounded Clemson in the national media in terms of not wanting to give Clemson credit for the accomplishments this year because of the schedule. Wondering when you feel like the perception or the narrative about this team changed outside the program.

DABO SWINNEY: In what regard? What changed -­what are you talking about?

The way people viewed Clemson maybe the last couple of years -­

DABO SWINNEY: Oh, this year?

Yeah, compared to this year. When do you feel like that maybe changed?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, I don't know, just started early in the season. Early in the season we – I don't know who else we can do. We beat everybody we played. But we dominated Georgia Tech, we dominated Texas A&M, we dominated Syracuse, we dominated Charlotte it seemed like. Trevor threw a couple interceptions, and that seemed to be the narrative early, and then people – we just started looking – everybody just started focusing on our schedule. That's really what the whole story – I don't know why or what, but I guess that just was the story that people wanted to hear. You turned on ESPN, instead of all the good plays, all you saw was the bad plays of Trevor throwing an interception, what's wrong, this and that.

And then we had one close game on the road, a tough North Carolina team that played great that day, and we didn't play very well. But we won the game, and it was just – that was kind of the tipping point probably where all of a sudden we drop, and then it just seemed like it didn't matter what we did, at that point – well, they only do that because we don't play anybody. The story was more about who we play, trying to create how bad they are as opposed to who we are and who we've been as a program for a long time.

Listen, I know that every year – I'm the king of that. Every year you start over. You don't carry anything over. I'm a thousand percent on that. But at some point you also have to – it's not like we just showed up for one year. And so at some point you have to give a program the benefit of the doubt. We're a young team. We're one of the youngest teams in the country, played the most freshmen of anybody in the country, and we just grew throughout the year. But we really dominated 12 of our 13 games prior to this playoff, and that's really all you can do is play the schedule that you have. But it just seemed like the conversation was so much all year about who we play our schedule, which we have zero control over. We've averaged – we try to play about three SEC games a year to go along with our schedule, and then we've been in the playoffs. We've played – I don't know who else you could play.

But it just seemed like that became the narrative. I really didn't say anything about it until the South Carolina game. I just didn't like the question that I got.

But anyway, we've played somebody now. I think Ohio State was pretty good, a pretty good team. Our guys still found a way to win. So hopefully all that stuff can be put to rest and these guys can be recognized for just an incredible run. I mean, to win 29 games in a row is – it's historic. I mean, it's just unbelievable how hard that is to do in today's world.

I just felt like people were – there were some people trying to diminish what these guys have achieved, and to be able to just get up every single week and play at such a high level, so consistently, it's special to be a part of, and I was just really proud of them the other night and how they competed, handled the adversity, finished, and now we've got our hands full. It doesn't get any easier, that's for sure. But that's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way championship football is.

LSU pretty much dominated everybody they played all year, too. So it's a great match-up, the two best teams for this year, and we're excited about being in it and having a chance to earn it on the field.

You mentioned the flight yesterday and how long of a day it was for you guys, and also the physical football game you played. Is it going to benefit you guys instead of having six or seven days to play this game that you're going to get the two weeks because you've got to go cross country and you played a physical football game and LSU didn't have that? Not saying they didn't play a physical game, but they didn't have to travel as far coming back from Atlanta like you did.

DABO SWINNEY: Well, I'm thankful. Hopefully it'll benefit us, but I'm thankful that we've got a couple days to just recover, rest and recover and that we're not having to leave on Friday. You know, I'd prefer to just go play, to be honest with you, if I was writing the schedule out. But hey, things always happen the way they're supposed to, and in this particular case I'm really glad that we've got a couple extra days, and like I said, we can give these guys a little time to rest and recover because it was a long trip and very, very physical game.

But these guys are young. They'll bounce back, and look forward to getting out on the field with them a little later this week.

I know you've been caught up in your season, but I was wondering what's impressed you about Joe Burrow this season. You said you hadn't watched any tape from this weekend, but what you've heard or maybe seen on the TV with him this season.

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I have not broke him down or anything yet, but just the couple games I've been able to see and highlights and all that stuff, and then also just kind of how he represents himself. He's just a very impressive young person. You can tell he's just an inspirational type guy, great winner. He has great belief, and you can tell his team is highly motivated around him.

But he's played in big games and just is very poised in those situations. Got a chance to see him the Alabama game in Tuscaloosa there, so watched that one, and just very, very impressive in how he's competed all year long.

Just going to be a challenge. He's easily just statistically what he did is unbelievable. They really just shred everybody, and it starts with him, and it's not just his ability to throw the ball. He's got great receivers, offensive line. He's had a great run game sport and all that kind of stuff. But he's made great plays with his legs, too. He can move. Just very confident, very accurate, and it'll be a huge challenge, another great match-up, two great quarterbacks. So again, that's the way a championship game ought to be.

I noticed after Trevor was kind of knocked on the ground there and came out for a play, he was just a different cat when he came back in. He told us a little bit ago that it kind of pissed him off a little bit because he said he could envision Ohio State cheering the fact that maybe they had knocked him out. Does that show what kind of competitor he is, the fact that he was behind really for the first time in his college career, he almost gets knocked out? What did you see out of him, and does it show you anything different than you've seen before?

DABO SWINNEY: No, that's just who he is. I mean, he is a fearless competitor. He has an incredible will to win, which starts with his preparation. I mean, when you work so hard at something, you invest so much into something, you're not going to just – you're not going to just give it up, and he prepares relentlessly and just pays the price.

All of a sudden – you're going to fight for it. I just saw what I already knew, and that is that he is just an unbelievable competitor and a great, great leader, and he just has a will to win that's special. It really is.

He has a great belief and faith. He was a little mad that he had to come out and sit out a play, but he just kept attacking all night long. He just kept attacking.

We did not play well – I mean, and that's really one of the positives in the game. I would – really only because of how we finished there in the fourth quarter, I would give us a B- if I was going to give us a grade. I would literally give us a B-.

But the beautiful thing about that is we still won the game, and I think that's – when you don't have to play perfect to win, we can take some confidence in that because we made a lot of mistakes. We did some dumb things and had some missed opportunities and stuff.

But we hung in there, and again, we found a way to win. But we'll have to play much better in this next one to have a chance to beat these guys.

There were some experts I guess early in the game saying if Clemson keeps running Trevor Lawrence he'll get hurt, but there on that last drive, on that 11-yard run, he's delivering blows. Is he more physical and a better runner than people think?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, he's 6'6", 220 pounds, and he's strong. He's a great runner. He just ran a 67-yard touchdown against Ohio State and ran away from them, so I don't know what else you need to say about that. They've got a bunch of dudes that can run on that defense. That's what I've said all year long. He's as confident in his legs as he is his arm, and he's grown into that. But he can move. He can flat-out move.

That's really been the case all year. He's really made a lot of big plays with his legs, scrambling around, extending plays, and then also just running it when he needed to.

But he made some big plays. Had a couple scramble plays last night and obviously the quarterback draw was a huge play for us and kept him honest just enough to set up a few things, but we've got to – we're going to have to play better across the board, again. But it's all about winning the game, and I thought that that was the best part of it. Had to go 94 yards against the best defense in the country to get the lead, and then you've got to stop the No. 1 scoring offense in the country to win it, and that's the way a championship game – Trevor led us down the field, did an amazing job, just in four plays. Super proud of him, and we've got one more to try to go get.

Dabo, four of the last five seasons you guys have ended in the National Championship game. Is that an advantage over a first-time program like LSU getting there, and how big an edge do you think it is for you guys?

DABO SWINNEY: No. I mean, it's always good to have experience, but we won the National Championship with a true freshman quarterback last year. That was supposedly a disadvantage for us, a guy who hadn't been there. So I don't buy any of that stuff.

I love having experienced guys that can lead, but we're a really young team. We've got, again, 80 of our 120 are freshmen and sophomores. So they haven't been in four out of the last five National Championships. Our program has, so from a program standpoint I think that it definitely – from a preparation and those type of things and the seniors that we do have, these guys, these fifth-year guys have been here for four out of the last five. So they have a good clear visual, but we don't have many of those guys. We've just got a few.

So it's fun. But that doesn't give us any type of edge or anything like that. It comes down to who these two teams are and who plays the best on that night, those four quarters, and finds a way to get it done.

I was wondering how you feel about the time between the games given how banged up you said everybody was earlier on the call.

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I mean, it's great. This particular year it worked out good. If you asked me before and even now, I'd prefer to go play. I think playing on Saturday and then playing the following Monday, I like that. But in this particular case, it's a blessing for us because we can kind of give our guys a couple days to just rest and recover, and also the coaches. I mean, it's been a grind, so everybody has kind of got a day today to decompress and unpack. We didn't get in until late last night, a long trip, we got delayed about three hours or so. So just a day for everybody to recover and then the coaches tomorrow will get back in there and get rolling and get the team back in there on Wednesday. So we're excited about these next couple weeks. It's going to be a lot of fun getting ready for this game and just being in it and knowing that we're at this point and we've got a chance to go compete for it and we've earned it. We're going to give it our best shot.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach Swinney, and again, congratulations. We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans here in a few days.

DABO SWINNEY: I appreciate it, and congrats to LSU, too, and Coach O, and look forward to competing against those guys. What an amazing season they've had. It's exciting. We've got two great Tiger groups coming together, and going to be an awesome, awesome night for college football.

THE MODERATOR: On behalf of Bill Hancock and our Selection Committee at the College Football Playoff, we'd like to congratulate Clemson for their game on Saturday night, the win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, and are happy to have joining us on the call here today Trevor Lawrence and Chad Smith, the MVPs from that game.

Trevor, how difficult was it for you there in the first half with Tee taken out of the game as hot as he was coming out of the game the last few games with eight touchdowns and just having to shuffle the wide receivers around for you in the first half?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, it was definitely a challenge. It was a little different. We obviously have a lot of guys that can go out there and play, so it wasn't nothing that we couldn't do, but it was challenging just because obviously Tee is a great player, and having to shuffle guys around was kind of tough, and then – so we just had to kind of get adjusted. We were moving the ball – the first quarter we were moving the ball really well at first, just couldn't finish the drives, and after he went out, we kind of stifled a little bit, and then we kind of got momentum back after that. But yeah, it was definitely an adjustment.

Chad, I was kind of standing there during the postgame celebration watching you on the stage, and just seeing your emotion and the tears on your face, game MVP, knowing what you've been through since you've been at Clemson, all of the practices, all of the time, did that moment on the big stage kind of make that all worth it, and what was going through your mind up there on stage?

CHAD SMITH: Yeah, it definitely did make it all worth it. Just the journey that I've been on, starting January 5, 2015, when I first got on campus as a freshman, having to redshirt that year, and just buying my time, being patient, and then this year getting the opportunity to be a starter and being able to fulfill that role to the best of my ability and being able to help lead this team to where we are now, to another National Championship run, and being able to be part of such a great team with players like Trevor and Jamie and the leaders that we have and the guys on this team. It was just an emotional moment to be a part of such a great game and a great moment.

Trevor, I noticed you kind of limping after the game, and you took the shot early. Is this as physical a game maybe as you've ever played? You ran it so much, took so many shots. How sore were you on Sunday, and then again, was it as physical a game as you'd ever been in?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, yeah, for sure. It's definitely I would say the most physical game I've ever been in and the most sore I've been after a game. Yeah, I woke up yesterday morning and definitely felt it. But you know, it's a good feeling, though, when you wake up and you know you left everything out there. I know a bunch of guys on our team felt that way, that they left everything out there, and especially when you win the game that's a really good feeling. But hats off to Ohio State; they played us – that game was so tough, and just back and forth, and they never gave up. Just a really fun game to be a part of.

Chad, I wanted to ask you about Nolan Turner. As one of his defensive teammates, what's it been like watching his career and specifically the emotions of his up-and-down game from getting beat to making that amazing play? Can you just kind of summarize his career and that punctuation mark in that semifinal?

CHAD SMITH: Yeah, Nolan, he's a quiet guy. I mean, not many people when you look at Nolan Turner would figure he's one of the key players on the No. 1 defense in the country. You know, he's a smart guy. He's a great athlete. He's a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder. He wasn't highly recruited out of high school, so he brings that edge to practice all the time. He's a great leader. He's very smart, very intelligent, helps the young guys a lot, off the field, in the film room, watching them up on the field. He's just everything that you could ask for as a leader for this defense and for this program. Even though he's not a starter, he's out there playing like one whenever he gets the opportunity.

And just in the game, I was just so happy for him to have that moment that he had, to clinch it for us at the end. I mean, he had a tough play earlier, lost his leverage and gave up that touchdown, but he never lost faith. He was pissed at himself, but we had his back on the sideline. We knew he was going to come back and make a play when we needed it, because he's done that. He's done that before. And he's just been resilient throughout his entire career, getting opportunities and making the most of them. We're really proud of him.

We expected that of him, to be able to go out there and make that play, so it wasn't a surprise for us. But we're just so happy that he was able to do that, and we're excited for this next opportunity.

Trevor, I don't know how close you are to Nolan because you guys are on opposite sides of the ball, obviously, but can you speak to what it was like watching that and how well do you know him?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, I mean, I know him pretty well. Our team is really close. I feel like everyone on the team is friends. But yeah, me and Nolan are friends, and just watching him do that was special because Chad talked a little bit about just his journey and the kind of guy he is. It's a testament to that, coming in here I had no idea who Nolan was, and you get here and I see him and I meet everyone, and you kind of think like I've never seen this guy before, I don't know if he plays or what, and then you get out there to practice and he's just a baller. He's flying around the field, making plays. Just who he is, he works really hard, and the it's cool to see him get to seize that opportunity and take advantage of that moment, just knowing how hard he's worked and prepared.

Trevor, I was wondering, have you had a chance to – have you crossed paths with Joe Burrow? I know you guys obviously are in different conferences, and is there something about the way he plays that you particularly enjoy or have had a chance to watch?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, I get a chance to watch, obviously, as much as I can, like big games. So this season, just whenever a team like LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, any of those teams are playing, I try to watch them. I always see highlights and stuff. So I try to watch that. But I just – I like a lot of things about his game. Just his pocket presence is really good. His accuracy, obviously, and just how he's pretty mobile, too. He can extend plays and has a really good feel for pressure and doesn't take too many sacks. I like a lot of things about his game.

Yeah, I got to actually meet him this summer at the Manning camp in Louisiana. So we got to hang out a little bit there, but that was my first time meeting him.

Trevor and Chad, it looks like you guys again are going to be underdogs heading into this spot. How accustomed are you guys to playing that role, given the way Coach Swinney has kind of protected or categorized this team this year as a forgotten bunch at times and overlooked? How comfortable are you guys in this role heading into the game, the National Championship game?

CHAD SMITH: I mean, I guess you could say we're pretty comfortable with it. We don't really look too much to like the outside noise, whether we're an underdog or whether we're the team to beat in a particular game. I mean, we just focus on what we can control, focus on our preparation, and LSU is a great team. They're here for a reason. They've got a great offense, great defense, all-around team and program, so it's going to take a lot from us in our preparation to be able to have an opportunity to beat LSU in the championship. But it's definitely going to be a challenge.

So I mean, it just goes back to our preparation. We can hear all the outside noise or we can really focus on what we can do, have a narrow focus, put those blinders on, get ready to go back to work here soon in the next few days, and prepare ourselves to the best of our ability to have that chance to be national champions again.

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, just to add on to what he said, being here two years now and playing in a few games, you just see how much it doesn't really matter who's the favorite, and I think we as a team really understand that. Not necessarily that we take offense to it, it's just like it really doesn't matter who the favorite is. You've got to go play the game. The game is going to be won on January 13th. It's not won before when all the odds come out. You've got to play it. So I think, like Chad said, you have to prepare, and whoever prepares the best and plays the best on Monday is going to win the game.

Trevor, I asked you Saturday night about your 40 time, and you said you hadn't done one in a couple of years. I was able to find I guess maybe from recruiting you had a 4.78 40. What is it, in relation to that touchdown run? Do you know what your 40 time is right now?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: I really don't. Yeah, I ran that in high school I guess my senior year, or my junior year before my senior year at the opening thing, the combine thing I did that. So I don't know what it would be now.

You may have picked up a couple of hundredths of a second since you got to college.

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Hope so.

And then following up, whether you realize it or not, once you get there it's going to be kind of a de facto home game for LSU in the Dome. I wonder if you guys have thought about that and just a reaction to it.

TREVOR LAWRENCE: I mean, this game, this past game honestly there was a ton of Ohio State people there, so it'll be – it might be a little bit more LSU than Clemson compared to Ohio State-Clemson, but even that game was probably 70-30 or close to it out in Arizona.

Like even that, too, it's nice to have a big crowd there for you, but even then, you've still got to play the game. The game is won on the field. It'll be a cool experience, though, for sure.

CHAD SMITH: Yeah, just to echo that, the game is won on the field. It's going to be interesting to see what the ratio is because last game it was definitely like 70 to 30 Ohio State. So it'll be interesting to see. But I know we've got some of the best fans in the nation, and they'll do their best to travel out to that game for sure. But we don't really look at it too much about having to do with much of the fans or who's going to be in the stands. Really it just goes back to our preparation and our focus and how we execute on the field. But it'll be a fun environment either way. It's going to be cool playing LSU in Louisiana, in New Orleans, so it's going to be a fun game.

Chad, I know you said after the game obviously you gave a lot of credit to your teammates and everything as far as winning the individual award, but if you could just be selfish with us for a moment and just kind of tell us after just being there for so many years and going through a lot of ups and downs through your Clemson career, just how cool it was for you to be recognized individually on such a big stage.

CHAD SMITH: Yeah, it definitely was an honor to be awarded the MVP. I didn't realize it until they just pulled me aside when everyone was about to get up on stage and say, you're the defensive MVP, and I said, oh, wow, that's crazy, because there's a lot of players on that defense that could have won defensive MVP. We had a lot of players that had a heck of a game, and being able for me to go out there and execute the way we were supposed to execute on some of the plays out there in order for me to make those plays, it was pretty special. I mean, all this hard work and all this perseverance and commitment all came to fruition that night, being able to be recognized on a stage like that was just truly an honor. I wouldn't have been able to get to that position if it wasn't for my teammates, if it wasn't for my coaches who invested their time in me and coached me up, my people that came before me, the Ben Boulwares, the B.J. Goodsons, the guys that set the example what it looks like to be a leader, to be a playmaker out on the field, the Kendall Josephs, those guys that set the example for me. And then for me to be able to kind of follow in their footsteps and be able to shine in a big moment like that is special. It's definitely something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Trevor, we asked Etienne after the game if he had been told that you had out-rushed him against the Buckeyes. He would have said, you've got to be kidding me. Did you maybe get a laugh out of it afterwards or your teammates have a little fun with the fact that you had 100-yard rushing game, including the 67-yard run, and that was one of the big differences in the game?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, it was kind of a weird stat line after the game how everything looked. He had close to 100 yards receiving and I had more rushing yards. It was kind of weird. But really he didn't have as many opportunities to run the ball as much. There was a lot of pull reads and then also just things were opening up for me to have a lot of chances to run the ball. He didn't have a ton of chances. I feel like he did pretty well when he did. And then in the passing game obviously he did great, making plays with his hands and with his feet.

I was wondering for either Trevor or Chad, whoever wants it, this is the fourth time Clemson has been in the finals in the past five years. Is that experience a positive factor for you guys going in? You guys haven't been there all the time, but your coaches have, the program has. Everybody is comfortable with where you are. Do you think that might be a factor come game time?

CHAD SMITH: Yeah, I would say that's a little bit of a factor, being able to be in that moment before. I've been blessed to be a part of all four National Championship appearances all the way back to my redshirt year. So I mean, yeah, that's a pretty surreal just stat line and moment for me.

But yeah, it's drawing back on those experiences and how those guys before us prepared and how they approached the game, and then we still have players on this team that have played in that moment last year, guys like Trevor and Nolan Turner and Tanner Muse and those guys who have been in that moment. Being able to draw back from their experience and how they approached that game is going to be important for the young guys because we have such a young team, to be able to rely on those older guys and how they go about their preparation.

And really it doesn't change. We treat it just like any other game. Yeah, it's the biggest game on the biggest stage, but we wouldn't have been able to get there if it wasn't for our preparation in the previous games. So we've just got to approach it the same, with the same focus, with the same intensity that we prepared for each and every game, and go out there and execute what we have game planned.

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, just to add on to what he said, yeah, same thing. Like I said for some of the other questions, it doesn't make a huge impact just because the game will be won out there, and I know LSU is going to put together a great game plan and they're going to be ready. Even though they haven't played in a National Championship, they're not thinking about that.

But just knowing that you've been there before helps a little bit, especially with me. I know what to expect as far as how everything is going to go, and even just schedule-wise, when you're going to get there and how the days are going to be. I'm pretty comfortable knowing that, and I know what I'm kind of going into and the stage and know the lights are a little bit brighter, it's a big stage, but knowing we've been there before definitely does help a little bit.

After you took the hit and you laid there on the turf, it looked like you just got up with a different look in your eye. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, and you just came back, and that was to me the turning point for you. You played so much better after that as a team and maybe you individually. Was that a bit of a wake-up call? Did it make you mad? Was that a turning point for you?

TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah, I think kind of what you said, there's some truth in all that. It was just, they hit me, and I was worried it was my collarbone for a second because I couldn't feel it up there around my shoulder and neck, and my arm just went numb. It was just a really bad stinger. And then I got kind of – I was kind of pissed off because I knew they were over there thinking like, all right, we knocked him out. They think had all the momentum, so I was like, all right, I'm just going to pop up, I'm going to run it off, and I was pissed, too, because I thought we were punting, and then it turns out they called targeting and we got a chance to go back out there and we finished and scored on that drive. But I was just like, man, from then on, they thought they had knocked me out. I had a different kind of edge when I got up.

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