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Dabo Swinney Press Conference

Nov. 24, 2009

“I was a great win last week, I’m proud of our play in the conference this year that included the Atlantic Division championship. That’s a great accomplishment for our team and our staff. I’m really proud of those guys.”

“We’ve quickly turned the page to South Carolina. Our players have bounced back. Last night I thought they had good spirit and good focus. Today will be a critical day for us from a preparation standpoint. We’ll get a lot of our heavy work done today and tomorrow.

“We’re excited about this game, it’s always fun to play the rival. It’s something that is important to this state and this program. It’s a neat thing and it’s fun to be a part of it. For us, it’s next game and the next goal. That’s how we approach it.

We’ll prepare the same way today, tomorrow and Thursday and game-prep on Friday before traveling to Columbia. We’ll have our normal Friday night and Saturday morning and then go play. The next goal for us is to try and win our state championship. That’s 100% of what our focus is on.”

“Offensively for them, they’ve really done a lot of things throughout the season. From a defensive standpoint, preparing for them is a challenge. They’ve been very multiple. One thing that jumps out is that (Stephen) Garcia has played well for them. He’s really had a good year, you can tell he’s grown a lot as a player from where he was last year. It will be critical for us to get after him, just like all the other quarterbacks we have played. He’s a good player, he makes them go. We have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket. He can run, he’s fast and we have keep him contained.”

“Something that’s critical for us every week, especially when you play a team coached by Steve Spurrier, is to contain their running game. If they can get a run game going against us, that makes it difficult. We have to do a good job against the run. They have several guys they’ll roll in there. That goes for us to win against the point of attack.

“Our defensive line has to win up front. That’s a key for us in any football game, but in particular for this game. They’re much improved on the offensive line. They’re tough guys, they’re playing hard. They’ve had some battles they’ve been in. We’ll have to win up front to have a chance. They’ve had an open date. We’ll have to prepare for the wildcat, especially after watching us last week they have probably drawn up a bunch of trick plays. I would. They all seemed to work last week against us. We’ll have to do a better job of just playing assignment football and doing your job before you go do someone else’s job. And being disciplined with your eyes and covering your guy.” “They throw a lot of deep balls, so that will be a factor in the game. I think that our secondary guys know that, they do it every year. We’ll have to do a good job of defending the deep ball.”

“They are talented defensively. They were very good last year, since Coach (Ellis) Johnson came in there. Ellis and “Whamee” (Lorenzo Ward) have done a good job with this defense. They play really hard and their safeties are good tacklers. The corners are young, but talented. They have gotten better over the course of the season.

They are very disruptive up front. Ladi Ajboye is a heck of a football player inside, a guy you really have to account for. Eric Norwood is as good of a player as you’ll have to play against. He’s all over the place. He makes a lot of instinctive plays on the football field and they line him up in a lot of different places. Our kids are very familiar with them and I’m sure they are familiar with us, so there are no surprises there.”

“They’ve added some linebacker depth this year. They’ve added some junior college guys that have come in there and given them some depth. We’ve got to win up front. We have to be able to run the ball. That makes things go for us and allows us to have some balance.”

“Special teams is usually a factor in this game, at least it has been the last few years. Whether it’s a kick or a blocked kick or a return, usually special teams is a big factor in this game.”

“We’re pretty healthy going into the 12th game of the season. It’s important that we have them fresh and ready to go, especially since they are coming off an extra week of rest. We have to make sure we are ready to roll. It’s all about execution. We just want to finish strong and keep getting better.”

As a person that isn’t from the state, what have you come to learn about this rivalry? “It’s a great rivalry. It’s very similar to what I grew up in. It’s a game that means a lot to the state on both sides. They talk about it all year. It hasn’t had quite the national effect as much as maybe the Alabama/Auburn game has had. Those two teams are in the same conference, the same division, so a lot of times that game is for the SEC Championship or a higher ranking. This game historically has not had as much effect on a national scene with rankings and championships and things like that. But make no mistake, it doesn’t take a backseat at all to any rivalry from a fan base standpoint and people wanting to win. It’s a great rivalry. It’s good old fashion bragging rights and it’s a really fun game to be a part of.”

There are a thousand decisions that can be made in a ballgame. Do you think you’ll make any decision during the game, whatever it is, that you might make different this week because of the Georgia Tech game next week? “Not at all. This is the biggest game of the year. We want to win it. Why play a game if you don’t want to play to win? It’s a chance to win our ninth game of the year and it’s the opportunity to win seven in a row. We’ve practice, we’ve met, we’ve put a lot of time getting ready for the ball game. If it went our way and we are in the fourth quarter and we feel like we have the game in control we might take our big guys out and rest them, that’s about the only thing I wouldn’t go into this game thinking anything otherwise.”

Talk about the game a year ago and how it helped to solidify your future here. “We had to win it just to go to a bowl game because we had two 1-AA teams on our schedule. It was a big, big game for us. It gave us seven wins and it certainly didn’t hurt my chances of getting this job. I was happy for the seniors because it was their last home game and it’s always nice to see them be able to finish their career with a win.”

Talk about emotions being high for this game and keeping emotions in check. “The most excited team doesn’t win, the most emotional team doesn’t win. It’s the team that takes care of the ball. It’s the team that wins on the point of attack on the defensive line and the offensive line. It’s the team that plays the smartest. That’s really what we talk more about. We address the fact that our guys will be excited to play. Let’s channel our energy the right way. We don’t play until noon on Saturday, so let’s stick to our daily focus and attention to detail.”

Kyle Parker’s development this year has been remarkable. How does Kyle Parker’s compliment your other skill people? “For Kyle it’s about preparation, decision-making and leadership. Those are great qualities for in a quarterback and that’s where he has grown most. It is very critical. He has learned how to prepare the proper way, which has led to better decision-making on the field. Because he’s had success, he’s gotten the opportunity to be a leader even though he is a freshman. He’s taken full advantage of that. He has proven that he can make all of the throws.

“He handles his emotions very well. He doesn’t let mistakes haunt him. He moves on. He doesn’t let success get to him. He just plays. That’s probably the biggest thing that has allowed us to have the threat and be a balanced team, which is what we try to do. They load up to stop the run, they’re vulnerable because we’ve got good skill players. Somebody for them has to cover. Kyle has proven he can beat you, so that has helped us a ton.”

How much is Coach Stallings still mentoring you? How much do you seek his advice? “I talked to him Georgia Tech week and then again after the Maryland game. He called me after the game. We had a good talk. I went out two Sundays ago for coach Jack’s funeral with Woody McCorvey and Danny Pearman. I had a good visit with him. We had just played Florida State the night before.”

“We hadn’t been there 30 seconds, I walk in the door, and he says, ‘Come here, I got to show you something.’ We sat down at the table in his den. He had it on his mind. He took a piece of paper, flips it over, and he goes back to coaching and talks about formations. He had a thought on his mind about stopping the run. He’s like, ‘I gotta tell you this. It’s going to win you a ballgame.’ He drew it up. I told him it looked good, folded it up and put it in my pocket.”

After you lost to Texas Christian, C.J. said this was a top 15 team. People thought it was an absurd statement. What’s that say about the team and CJ’s believe in it? “Our team has believed all along. We’ve been about the right things. It’s been a very unselfish bunch, a close group and a very accountable group. They knew that TCU is a good football team when we played them. We knew we had an opportunity to win that game and you see where TCU is ranked and you see where Georgia Tech is ranked. Our kids know we’re as good as any team. That’s important, that’s a big part of it that your team believes that they’re good enough. That’s 75% of the battle. You don’t necessarily have to be good enough, but if you believe you are good enough you have a chance. That’s been a real key for this team. They believe in themselves and each other. They really care about each other. All that ranking stuff just doesn’t matter.”