Dabo Swinney previews SC State, says: 'I'm very happy we're 2-0'
Football coaches anticipate the most improvement from the first game to the second. Clemson took several steps back.
Thrust into the limelight with a veteran team that played for the national championship eight months ago, Clemson doesn’t have the bearing or swagger of a contender, despite the 2-0 record.
“We ain’t playing well,” coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. “And when guys aren’t playing well … it’s frustrating.
“We’ve got a lot of crap that we’ve got to fix. We’ve got some guys that can play better, play to their potential.”
Clemson dropped from No. 2 to 5 in the AP poll, and No. 3 in the coaches’ poll. Ideally, Saturday’s home game against South Carolina State would serve as a dress rehearsal for the next game, five days later at Georgia Tech. Except Clemson can’t afford to take anything for granted after a pair of six-point wins pocked by mistakes.
“If you don’t show up and you’re not ready and you make mistakes and do stupid things … then you put yourself in jeopardy,” Swinney said. “For us, it’s about trying to clean up execution, trying to get better.”
Much of the stridency lands on the offense and quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has completed 52.9 percent of his passes and thrown three interceptions. The two games troubled him, Watson said this week, and perhaps he became distracted and lost his patience.
Swinney said Watson’s mea culpa was a genuine display of leadership. While there’s not a simple solution, Swinney claimed it’s all rooted in the team’s inability to “pitch and catch.” Four dropped passes at Auburn were followed by eight against Troy.
“We just can’t get in rhythm because we can’t catch the ball right now, and that affects everything,” he said. “It’s really as simple as that. When we pitch and catch a little better everything else will be better. It’s really not more complicated than that.”
There won’t be an urgency this week to rush linebacker Ben Boulware, who injured an ankle in the Troy game. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow might miss four weeks recovering from a bone fracture in his right hand. Swinney said the receivers are “the most underperforming, underachieving (group) on the team.”
“Looking at the first two games I think there are a lot of positives,” he said. “But there’s no question we’ve got a lot of areas we’ve got to improve in if we’re going to reach our potential as a team.”
Who: S.C. State (0-2) vs. Clemson (2-0)
When: Saturday, Noon
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
TV: Fox Regional / Radio: 93.1 FM