Clemson focused on success
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009
CLEMSON, S.C. ó Clemson coach Dabo Swinney couldn’t wait to get back to practice.
Two straight losses to spoil a division-winning season will do that to a coach.
Swinney and the Tigers began work Tuesday to make sure the streak stops with Kentucky at the Music City Bowl later this month.
“Been chomping at the bit to get back to work, to be honest with you,” Swinney said.
Swinney found his players were ready to return, as well.
“It felt great to get back on the practice field and run it out a little bit,” Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller said.
Spiller and the Tigers are eager to get back to winning.
Clemson (8-5) rode a six-game win streak to the ACC’s Atlantic Division title and a spot in the league’s championship game.
But the Tigers couldn’t keep the success flowing their last two games. They fell to state rival South Carolina 34-17 on Nov. 28, then lost the ACC crown to Georgia Tech 39-34 a week later.
Lose to the Wildcats in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 27 and the feel-good season Swinney longed to carry into 2010 will be plagued by grumbling critics again questioning the 40-year-old coach’s credentials to lead a major college program.
Swinney says whatever happens next game won’t affect how he feels about his first full year as Clemson coach.
After all, Swinney said, it took a long, fourth-quarter drive by the Yellow Jackets to pull things out at the end.
“I’m not going to let a game-winning, 86-yard drive spoil how I feel about the season,” he said.
Still, Swinney wasn’t pleased with his team’s execution the last two games. Tiger players didn’t communicate the way they had during the winning run. Also, too often defenders would try for the big play instead of sticking to their assignments, Swinney said.
“Hopefully, we can get them to play smarter than we have” the past two weeks, Swinney said.
There’s little doubt who played the smartest in the ACC championship.
Spiller, the ACC’s player of the year named to the AP All-America team earlier Tuesday, had a career high 233 yards and ran for four touchdowns.
He came back to school for a championship. Now, he hopes to leave Clemson with a bowl victory, something else he hasn’t tasted with the Tigers.