WATCH: Dabo Swinney, Tee Higgins postgame press conference after ACC title win


by - Assoc. Editor -

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and standout receiver Tee Higgins spoke to the media following their team's 62-17 ACC title win over Virginia on Saturday night.

CLEMSON HEAD COACH DABO SWINNEY: What Bronco has done with his team and his program, and man, they're just going to continue to get better. At the end of the day, what this team -- what our team has done is super special. It's really hard to do what they've done, 13-0 and to stay focused week in and week out and just continue to get ready is special. The leadership of this team, the will to win is inspiring, really, and I'm just so thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of it. This never gets old. This is what it's all about, and just a special, special time. This team has prepared, they've trained, and they've believed all year for this moment. So to see it come to fruition is pretty special. To win our fifth ACC title game in a row and make college football history is really cool, and not something we set out to do, it's just something that's happened. We've just kind of been so busy trying to just be our best day in and day out and just all of a sudden you look up and we're in a situation like this.

I'm thankful for those previous teams that gave us this opportunity, and it's just a blessing. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to go compete and see if we're good enough to get to the top of the mountain for the whole thing. We'll find out tomorrow. But these seniors won their 54th game today, and that's one off the college football record. So just an incredible, special group of young people, and then this guy right here, we've had a lot of great wide-outs come in here, and I think he had 9 for 182, and the record, career record 27 touchdowns in his career, and that ties Nuke and Sammy. Those guys were pretty good, so just pretty amazing.

I told him I'm not giving him a game ball. The next touchdown he gets, he's going to get a game ball. He'll stand alone. So I'm just really proud of Tee and what he's done, and our offensive line and what Trevor -- he was just -- Trevor was unbelievable again. He's just been amazing really all year. Travis Etienne, 114 yards, and he became the first ever running back to have multiple 1,500-plus-yard rushing seasons in our school history, and we've had a lot of great backs, so I'm just really proud of him. Special teams hit a couple -- even though Potter kicked five times he was 2 for 2. That was kind of a crazy deal out there, but he made two kicks. Our kickoff coverage was good. We stopped a fake and then defensively created three turnovers.

We're probably up there in the top five in the country now in turnover margin. It's the best turnover margin team I've had since I've been a coach, so I'm just really proud of these guys, their consistency, and then super proud of Kaevon tonight against his home-state school to have nine tackles and two pass breakups, and was a captain for us tonight.

Just a great, great night. Appreciate our fans. It was an amazing crowd, and appreciate everybody in Charlotte that works so hard to make this ACC Championship game a great venue and a great experience for both teams. It was just awesome, and I'm just happy for our fans. I'm happy for our administration, and I'm happy for Team 124, our 124th team at Clemson. These guys have done some great stuff. We're going to enjoy it tonight. We've got a team meeting tomorrow and we'll celebrate as a team at noon and find out who we're going to play, where we're going, and then these guys will get a little time off. We're going to hit the road. We've got a very short window because everything is back a week this year calendar wise, but we're looking forward to the next challenge. But we'll enjoy this one tonight.

Q. As coach mentioned, tying Nuke and Sammy for the Clemson career touchdown record, what does that mean to you, and also it just seems as a wide receiver group you're so selfless, every game it might be somebody different that has a big game. What is it about this group that makes you selfless?

CLEMSON WIDE RECEIVER TEE HIGGINS: First of all, it's a great accomplishment just to be up there with those top two guys, and for our receiving room, we just go out there and just play. Don't worry about the stats. One guy is doing good, we're going to congratulate him and just keep going.

Q. Tee, I saw you after that second touchdown sort of lay on the ground for an extra second, suck up the moment. What was going through your head when you were doing that?

TEE HIGGINS: I don't know, I just felt -- it was just great. That second touchdown, I don't know why, but I just enjoyed that one the most, simply because I knew I was close to getting the record, but I never knew if I was going to go back in the game or not, so I just enjoyed it. So I mean --

DABO SWINNEY: I'll guarantee you his mama wasn't soaking it up. She was hooting and hollering and going crazy in the stands, I guarantee you. She was having a ball up there with his sister, I'm sure.

Q. Tee, on the one catch you made on the sideline where you dragged your toe in, even in the press box people were sitting there in awe wondering if you got that toe in. How much time do you spend on that little toe-tap drill and how did that happen?

TEE HIGGINS: Yeah, we definitely emphasize it in practice. We practice it almost every day. Coach Swinney said you touch, you catch, and I touch a lot, so I had to catch it. Trevor threw the ball, he kind of threw it out of bounds a lot more than I thought he would, and I just kept a foot in.

Q. Tee, Dabo said earlier this week about Trevor, that he's probably playing significantly better than he was at this time last year, which is I guess kind of hard to believe in its own right, but what have you seen from his development this year as opposed to when you guys were at this point last year and getting ready to go on that playoff run?

TEE HIGGINS: Yeah, that guy, he's playing with a lot more poise, a lot more confidence, and you can just tell he's taking that leadership role on the team and commanding the offense.

Q. Tee, just talk about you and Trevor's chemistry during practice and during the game. Talk about how you guys work together?

TEE HIGGINS: I mean, just like any other quarterback and receiver combination, we just go out there and practice. You catch balls in practice, it relates to the game. You've just got to keep practicing, practicing, and hopefully we come out there, Trevor throws great balls, 80-20 my way. That's our mentality.

Q. What was your biggest takeaway from tonight's game, and then overall this entire season?

DABO SWINNEY: The biggest takeaway? These guys were ready. They were focused, and they were passionate about winning the game. You know, just super proud of -- we knew they were going to have some unusual things, and we knew this quarterback was not going to be an easy out. He's moved the ball on everybody. We bent a little bit, they had us on our heels a little bit, but we settled in, we created three turnovers, and we played complementary football. Our offense really took it over. I think we scored every time in the first half that we had it.

It was just a dominant performance. I mean, again, plenty of things that we'll see on tape that we can learn from that I think will make us better as we move forward, and I'm thankful for that. But the guys were really focused, really locked in, and excited about the moment.

Q. What's distinctive about Tee, and what have you seen from the time he got there to now as far as how he's progressed?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, he was more of a basketball player when he got here. He was a great high school player, jump ball guy, run down the field, throw it to him. He was Bony Maroney. He was about -- he was probably 180 pounds, maybe, when he got here, and now he's about close to 215. So he's just worked his tail off and developed physically, had a lot to learn from a technical standpoint about the position and things like that. But he's just put the work in.

Such a joy to coach, and I was just telling the guys in our meeting in there, you know, our best players, Tee, Travis, the guys like that, Skalski, Trevor, they're the most humble, selfless kids you've ever been -- you can't even believe it. They're just so humble -- they're humble superstars, if you will. They don't act like they're better than anybody. They just put the work in. And whether Tee gets one ball or 10, he doesn't care. These guys are selfless, and they're happy for their teammates, and they set an example for everyone, and when your best player has such high character and humility and great respect for how you have to work to prepare week in and week out and then they set that example, I mean, it just makes my job easy.

But he's just really, really worked his tail off from a fundamental standpoint, a technique standpoint, physical standpoint, his knowledge of the game, and he's just become a very talented route runner. He's got some freaky ball skills. He can make any type of catch. He's got kind of DeAndre Hopkins type ball skills. He's got Mike Williams length. But he's got some explosiveness to him, as well.

He's a dynamic player, and just a super, super young man. I mean, just an absolute joy to be around every single day. Never one problem ever. His mama, of course if you -- his mom's name is Lady, and if you got around Lady, you know what I'm talking about. She don't play. She has done an amazing job raising him into the young man that he is, and I'm just honored that we were able to kind of take the baton from her and help develop him as a man as well as a player, and he's special.

Q. Virginia had the most offensive success against you of anyone this season, even without Joe Reed. Your remarkable 300-yard streak came to an end tonight. What were they doing to move the ball so well and what kind of adjustments did you have to make after that?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, they broke contain a few times. First of all, we didn't make some of the plays that were there. They made some plays, but there was a few plays there that we normally make that we didn't make, missed a few tackles, and then we didn't set the edge a couple times, and he's just going to hurt you. He's just that good.

And then we had a three-man rush one time and they blocked us and they were able to hold the ball and ran a long double move on the first big play. But they do a nice job with their scheme. They do a really nice job. They took a lot of easy throws, but more importantly, they had a lot of success on 1st down, and they kept a lot of -- what were they, 6 of 9 on 3rd down. That's as good as anybody has done on us in, I don't know, probably two years on 3rd down. We don't usually do that.

But they just kind of nickelled and dimed us, and he made plays. He made some plays with his legs. He made a couple competitive throws. But we settled in, and eventually had a little run of punts there, which allowed us to really stretch it out because we were playing pretty efficiently on offense. I think we were 10 of 18 on 3rd down. So I think we were 12 of 17 last week and 10 of 18 this week. That's unbelievable. You can win a lot of ballgames when you're having that type of success on 3rd down.

Man, give them credit. They just did a nice job, again, with their scheme. Had a couple unusual things, and then it'll be good for us to be honest with you. They put some good stuff on tape. We probably put a few not so good things on tape that will make us better for sure.

Q. You mentioned your offense there. Were there certain things you saw in the Virginia defense either during the game or on film in preparation that you were able to take advantage of to make it an effective night for you?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, we felt like we matched up well up front. I'll tell you what, man, they've got some good players. Those guys are well positioned. They're incredibly well-coached. But we felt like we could distort them a little bit with our scheme and hit some creases with Travis Etienne and hopefully make them have to play maybe one more safety than they may want to, give us some opportunity in the passing game.

But we just ran our offense and took what was there. We had some soft edges for a while. We had some underneath throws that we took that we were able to get a lot of yards after the catch. And then we went up top, so our play action game was really good. But everything kind of came off of our run game. Travis was just -- he's just hard to tackle, and our guys did a great job.

They have a very -- they got us a couple times. They got a really tough scheme. But we worked really hard on our targeting, our communication. It was a little disappointing with our -- we had a couple offsides penalties and they got us downfield one time, Trevor held the ball. But other than that, we really protected well. Missed a couple plays, but the run game allowed us to set up some really explosive play actions downfield, and that was -- and then the short game that we were able to take early in the game, I thought kind of led to that.

Q. What was it like coaching your son in one of these games?

DABO SWINNEY: It's just special. I mean, my boys have grown up -- it's just neat to see them live their dream. I know what it's like to live your dream. I'm living mine. I lived mine as a player and I'm living it every day as the coach at Clemson, and to see your kids have a chance to live their dream, but more importantly just grind. I like to see them work. I love to see how excited their teammates are for them. They're great teammates. They're both great young men. I think Drew got in there a little bit. But to see Will, Will has worked his butt off for three years and is a good little player, and just has to kind of fight for a niche here and there.

I'm just really proud of him. It's special, because again, when I came to Clemson, I guess Will was four? Is that about right? Four? And Drew was three, and our baby Clay was born here. They've just grown up here. They've been a part of it for 17 years now, so it's special. It really is.

And Coach V, we got Big Jake out there, and Ben Batson, our strength coach. It's really neat when you've got your kids a part of it.

But that's what we are, we're family here at Clemson. I look at all of them as my sons to be honest with you. But it's really neat to be able to share special moments. Will had a great play tonight. I didn't even know what the play call -- I was down there talking to -- I don't even know who I was talking to. I think I was talking to Trevor. I was down on the other end, and I look up and there's Will taking off. Dadgumit. I had the career long. I think my career long was -- I want to say it was like 18 yards, and he smoked me. That was all I had left, and he kind of gave that guy the business, as Ron Cherry would say, and made a nice run. But it was neat.

I almost missed it because I wasn't really looking, and I look up and there he goes, and the best part is seeing his teammates, how much fun they have to see him be rewarded for his hard work.

Q. There's three undefeated teams that will be in the playoffs. Somebody has got to be No. 1 and the other two have to play --

DABO SWINNEY: Did Ohio State win?

Q. They came back and won. Just wondering from where you sit, what are you expecting tomorrow? What do you think is going to be one, two and three?

DABO SWINNEY: Oh, shoot, man, I have no idea. And really don't care. I mean, just as long as we can be somewhere in the top four, I think we deserve that. We've earned that. I know we haven't played anybody all year, but hopefully we can get a chance to be somewhere in the top four because I think these guys, they deserve that.

But it's hard. It's hard to be undefeated in any league. Ohio State and LSU, I mean, unbelievable, unbelievable years because it is so hard. I have such a great appreciation for that accomplishment. LSU has been an unbelievable team. I would imagine they'd be one. I think they won pretty big, didn't they? I didn't see the end of it, but they were winning pretty big. What was the Ohio State score? Was it close? So pretty close game. I don't know. I don't even know who was No. 1 last week to be honest with you. But I would think one of them would be No. 1. We'll be in there somewhere. I would think we'd probably be three again. It doesn't really matter. We'll play somewhere and play somebody and be thankful for the opportunity.

Let's see who else? I guess Oklahoma. They won, didn't they? I guess that's it. I guess there's no drama. There you go. Them ol' boys can sleep in tomorrow, sleep until noon. There it is. There's your show.

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