Following a disheartening 51-14 loss to Florida State, there were legit questions about how the No.9 Tigers would respond Saturday at beat-up Maryland. And while there were up-and-down moments, Swinney found plenty of good in reviewing film of the Tigers’ 40-27 victory.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Swinney said Sunday in his weekly teleconference. “It’s always tough to go on the road and win. I think the way they handled this past week and responded, coming off a tough loss, you’ve got to go on the road, you’re hearing different things out there, these guys responded with a really good football game.”
He was happy with Clemson’s defensive efforts, save a 71-yard touchdown in which he said safety Travis Blanks and linebacker Stephone Anthony were “peeking in the backfield at the quarterback instead of looking at what they needed to look at” and a late touchdown drive.
“Our defense played very, very hard,” he said. “We had really good red zone defense, responded when we needed to, held them to 82 yards rushing, only had six missed tackles and several pass breakups. I’m proud of how this defense competed though we’ve got a lot of things we need to clean up.”
Offensively, Clemson rushed for a season-high 238 yards and had a 160-yard rusher and receiver (Rod McDowell and Sammy Watkins) in the same game for the first time in program history.
“551 yards of offense, 98 plays, that’s a good day at the office,” he said. “From our perspective, we’re never really satisfied, we want to turn field goals into touchdowns.
“….I thought Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries collectively played their best game with and without the ball.”
Turnovers remain a concern, particularly Watkins and McDowell’s back-to-back fumbles inside their own 25, which Swinney said “could have spelled disaster” if not for a stout defensive response.
Clemson also had four red zone trips in the first half that resulted in three field goals, which was an issue.
On the game-opening drive, Swinney noted a tackle for loss on first and goal in which a tight end didn’t handle a block correctly and said he should have called timeout before a “bad call” on third and goal.
On the next drive, a receiver was wide open for a touchdown with a perfectly-called play before a defender “got a finger” on the ball, and McDowell wound up short on third down.
On the third drive, Humphries was wide open, but Tajh Boyd forced the ball to Watkins in the middle of the end zone.
“There were a couple of situations, missed assignments, we didn’t have a good call against their defense, their guy made a play,” he said.
“Those are things we can definitely improve on. You look at what we did, moved the ball all night, two three-and-outs, 551 yards of offense, ran the ball the best we’ve run all year. I was very encouraged when I watched the film.
Frustrated last night. You punch a couple field goals and turn them into TDs, you get ahold of that game quickly.”
Injury-wise, Swinney doesn’t expect any players to miss the Virginia game. Zac Brooks has a shoulder bruise and will likely have surgery at season’s end, and Boyd (who tweaked his knee Saturday) received treatment Sunday but is fine.
“Going into the ninth game, we’ve got guys banged up, spent time in the training room, but that’s no different than any other team,” he said.