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Dabo Swinney Press Conference Transcript

Nov. 9, 2010

Opening Statement: “We’re coming off a good win last week and we’re quickly moving on and trying to get ready for the biggest game of the year. Our focus is on trying to get better and finishing the best way we can. To do that, we have to put a complete game together on the road. That’s something we haven’t done and that’s the most frustrating thing we’ve had to deal with. In all three road games, we’ve been in position to win in the fourth quarter and haven’t done it.

“Florida State is a very good team. Their offense is the best we’ve played. They do a great job with a lot of misdirection, screens, and play-action. They’re a balanced football team. They moved the ball on us pretty well last year. They’re very good on third down. The quarterback (Christian Ponder) is a very good player. Any time you’re going against a veteran, seasoned starter, it’s very difficult. He’s very smart and sees things differently than a younger guy would.

“Their offensive line is outstanding. 83 (Bert Reed) is the guy they want to move around. 82 (Willie Haulstead) and 8 (Taiwan Easterling) are guys they’ll have in there a bunch. Their fullback is a multi-task fullback. They’ll screen to him and do a lot of different things. For us, we have to affect the quarterback, stop the run, be good on third down, and tackle in space. We have to eliminate big plays and make them earn it. That’s where we’ve grown up this year.

“Their defense is very different than what we’ve seen from Florida State in years past. They’re playing more zone and not blitzing as much as we’re used to. Coach (Mark) Stoops has done a good job. They’ve lost a couple of close games, but they’re very talented. 49 (Brandon Jenkins) is right up there with Da’Quan (Bowers) as far as being a great defensive lineman. They get a lot of pressure with a four-man rush. They win a lot of one-on-one matchups. It’s going to be a tough challenge.

“Offensively for us, it’s about executing. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Kyle Parker has to play at a high level and everyone has to keep their composure. We have to keep battling and keep playing and hopefully have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter and finish like we want to. Special teams are always a factor when you play Florida State, for both teams. The kicking situation is critical. For us it comes down to a great week of preparation and staying focused.”

On kicking situation: “We’re going to go with the same holder and let them compete all week long. We had one kicker go 5-for-5, another 5-for-5 and one 4-for-5 yesterday. We’ll let them compete each day and name a starter on Thursday. They don’t know when they’re going to kick. They have to be ready at all times and whoever performs best in practice this week will start Saturday. We went for a fourth down the other day instead of kicking, because I felt like we needed touchdowns. These guys are talented. We have talented kickers, but for whatever reason, it’s not transferring over like we want it to right now.”

On Christian Ponder’s status: “We’ll monitor that, but the backup (E.J. Manuel) was the MVP of the bowl game. They’re going to do what they do, regardless of the quarterback. From a preparation standpoint, there’s not that much of a difference. He’s ready if he has to go in there, but it would shock me if Ponder wasn’t in there.”

On Clemson’s performance in the red zone recently: “It’s about execution. Lately, we’ve had bad execution and missed kicks. We’ve scored a lot of touchdowns but there are times when you have to kick the ball. Penalties, fumbles, dropped balls; it’s been all kinds of stuff. We’ve moved the ball down there and just haven’t come away with points like we need to.”

On play of the offensive line: “They’re the most consistent group on our team. They’ve been extremely consistent. There have been things that have happened that they have no control over. Drops and things like that. Last Saturday, Kyle (Parker) played great. He made some big throws and had to do it with a lot of pressure on him. There were some times where he had all day protection wise. We had some trouble on play-action where they got to us but when they would bring the four-man rush, that’s where we got our biggest plays. The receivers had no drops, but turnovers and fumbles were what killed us.”

On the play of his offense: “They’ve played very well at times. We’ve just shot ourselves in the foot. We’ve had to grow up in some areas; that’s been pretty obvious. We’ve had some guys that have grown up. We’re far from a finished product, but we’re far from last year where we scored more points than any team in school history. We just have to grow up a little more and mature in some areas. We only have two seniors starting on our offense (counting Parker) so we have a lot of guys that are playing that will be back.”

On Kyle Parker: “We want to continue to involve him as much as we can. Putting Tajh in there hasn’t necessarily sharpened Kyle; I just think Kyle played bad against Boston College. He played well against NC State minus two plays. I thought he played his best game of the year. When guys are catching the ball it makes any quarterback more comfortable. Nuke (DeAndre) Hopkins and Bryce McNeal aren’t doing everything right, but they’re finishing plays. Parker has to play well on Saturday, bottom line.”

On the health of Clemson’s running backs: “Jamie Harper’s fine. I’m proud of Jamie Harper’s. He laid it on the line and gutted it out the whole game against NC State. He gave tremendous effort and I’m pleased with how he played. He needs to take some confidence with him and play even better this week. Not having Andre Ellington hurts, obviously. He’s going through a rehab process and he’s definitely out this week but it’s going to be something we’re going to evaluate from week to week. Rod McDowell will have to play better. He didn’t play well with his opportunities. He’s certainly capable; I just think he got a little big-eyed. He practiced well, it just didn’t translate to the game.”

On overwhelming number of sacks by Florida State’s defense: “They had a lot in a game or two that got them off to a good start and they’re winning a lot of one-on-one battles. They’re not a big blitz team. They’re disrupting and they’re winning. 99 (Jacobi McDaniel) and 93 (Everett Dawkins) are two good players inside and Jenkins is as good as you’re going to find in the country. They’ll speed rush up the field, they’ll come up and under, and they just have the whole compliment of things you’re looking for in a defensive line. “

On Bobby Bowden not being at the game: “It will be a little strange going to Tallahassee and not having the Bowdens around. I’ll always remember the opportunity to visit with Coach Bowden last year before and after the game. It’s still Bobby Bowden field and I’m sure his presence is still very much surrounding the area down there.”

On the play of defensive tackle Rennie Moore: “He’s never been fully all-in and he’s finally bought in. He’s just trying to do things the right way and that’s what usually happens when players commit themselves. When guys do that, it affects them on and off the field. He didn’t have any busts the other day and had probably his best game ever. He’s an active, disruptive guy. He’s making progress and will hopefully become the guy we need him to be.”

On the season so far: “It’s a long season and our guys have done a good job every week of going back to work, win or lose. We’re building a program and this is a team within our program. It’s been a tough year. When you’re in position to win games, it’s frustrating when you lose. Those three road losses on the year have really hurt us. We’ve shown a lot of consistency in how we’ve battled everybody; that’s a good sign. If we continue to battle, win or lose, good things will come to this program and everyone involved with it.”

On if the play of his defense makes his offense more likely to be conservative: “We need to score some points, period. Our defense is playing well. If they continue to play that way, we’re going to have a great opportunity to win. We’ve had some outstanding drives. We have to come away with points. If we have it fourth and six yards to go, we’re going to punt if the defense is playing well. We have to play more aggressively on offense.”