Dabo Sweeney responds to Clemson Football’s disappointing end to NFL win

Dabo Swinney has adopted an intentional policy when it comes to getting wins that don’t come easy for the Clemson Football Team.

Turn up the music and party tonight.

Wake up tomorrow and go back to work.

But after the No. 4 Clemson defense allowed a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Florida State in a 34-28 win for the Tigers Saturday night, not every member of said unit was quite ready to switch into dance mode in the visitors locker room at Doak Campbell Stadium.

“We have a lot to learn from her,” Sweeney said, “but man, like I told them there, I know some guys were a little disappointed in the way they finished the game, but we’ll do it. Worry about that later. Let’s celebrate the win and get back to work.” Enjoy it tonight.”

It was an interlude of positivity after the last 15 minutes that, understandably, generated some negative emotions. After trailing 7-0 and 14-7 early, Clemson accumulated 27 unanswered points for FSU and took a killer 34-14 momentum to enter the fourth quarter.

Then Sweeney said, “We just lost our minds.”

Quarterback Jordan Travis and the rest of the Florida State attack went wild after suppressing most of the game. After landing back-to-back in the fourth quarter, Clemson needed to reclaim a side kick from receiver Brannon Spector and touch down first by running back Will Shipley to officially set up a game that should have ended much earlier.

The Tigers moved fourth to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the ACC before their home next weekend against No. 18 in Syracuse, but not without some punches.

In the fourth quarter alone, FSU topped Clemson 14-0, outpaced the Tigers 169-40 in total attack and executed quick seven-game touchdown drives from 60 yards and 94 yards to cut 20 points to six with 2:17 remaining.

Sweeney’s diagnosis of what went wrong?

“Tasks got stuck, lost focus, tasks got frustrated, no intervention, lost interventions…” Just some stupid things, Sweeney said. Penalties, a little bit of everything there. Just kind of lost our focus. I thought he was playing on the scoreboard, if you will.”

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Florida’s tight end, Markston Douglas (85) was brought down by Clemson Safety Jalen Phillips (25) during the fourth quarter of a college football game played on Saturday, October 15, 2022, in Tallahassee, Florida. Clemson won 34-28. (AP Photo / Phil Sears) AP

This “disappointing” stretch negated some of Clemson’s earlier defensive efficacy, which included a key run from defensive end Miles Murphy during the mid-game 17-0 run, a fourth pass and a goal from KJ Henry’s defensive end and two other forced reversals upon occurrence dips.

Travis finished the game with a total of 381 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles outscored the Tigers for 460 to 370 yards and 206 to 167 in rushing yards. FSU had 10 passing plays over 10 yards and seven passing plays over 15 yards.

“There were some good things (defensively), and we had actual control,” Sweeney said. “But really, really sloppy at the end there.”

Perhaps most worrisome: Clemson’s flaws with coordinator Wes Goodwin’s defense at full strength came essentially for the first time all season. It wasn’t the understaffed high school that was hit by Wake Forest in double shootouts or the understaffed defensive line failing to sack midfielders at the elite rate he wanted.

This was a loaded unit that welcomed starting cornerback Sheridan Jones, kicking off defensive tackles Brian Prey and returning rotational safety RJ McCains and Tyler Venables to the lineup. Clemson also got defensive end Xavier Thomas again last week, which means the Tigers had a full defensive line called the Avengers when they spread out.

To be clear, the Tigers’ attack didn’t favor the team late with zero points in the fourth quarter. Clemson went three times and came off just before FSU’s first fourth-quarter relegation (34-21) and proceeded to drain the clock but ultimately scoreless 10 plays before TD in FSU’s second fourth quarter (34-28).

However, Clemson’s defense couldn’t be in much better place after Aidan Swanson pinned FSU into the 6-yard line with 3:52 remaining. Next post-play: Travis complete 7 yards incomplete, Travis lunge 10 yards, Travis completes 23 yards, incomplete, Travis completes 29 yards, Travis touchdown pass 25 yards.

That’s seven plays and 94 yards in the blink of an eye.

Goodwin described the barring Case Murphy, who put Clemson’s touchdown on just before the break, as “huge” and praised cornerback Nate Wiggins for two break-ups of big passes. But he also lamented the Tigers’ lack of technique in handling, injuries that led to “rusty” performances from players who had recently recovered and a general lack of finishing touches.

“Like a shark, you smell blood in the water and you have to finish the job,” Goodwin said. “We can’t just relax and let our guard down. We have to play as hard as we did the whole match.”

Those slips haven’t caught up with the tigers yet. With a competent offense and a roster of four- and five-star recruits, Clemson was able to count on quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and the company and sometimes make up for his mistakes with sport alone and celebrate seven victories.

Until periods of poor defensive play become games full of poor defensive play, Sweeney explained that one stat outweighs the rest after a match.

“I have a lot of respect for the state of Florida,” he said. “I’ve been hit my ass by these guys a lot of times….it could have been a one point win and I’d be happy. We’ll get ready for the next stage. Proud of them and they know they’ll come back up and they’re ready to run.”

This story was originally published October 16, 2022 6:30 p.m.

Chapel Fowler has covered Clemson football, among other topics, for the state since June 2022. He’s a Denver, NC, Denver native, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2020 graduate and a junior basketball fan with previous layovers in Fayetteville (North). Carolina) Observer and Chatham (NC) news + record. His work has been honored by the sports editors of the Associated Press, the North Carolina Press Association, and Associated College Press.


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