Dabo Swinney: ‘We Were Just One Play Better’

With Clemson leading Notre Dame 21-3 entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, a lot of people watching around the country probably thought the game was over.

Then the Irish reeled off 19 points, ultimately losing 24-22 after coming up empty on a two-point conversion with seven seconds remaining.

Dabo Swinney’s heart, thankfully, is still beating.

“Oh yeah, we enjoyed it Saturday night and yesterday morning, but when we got our staff back together yesterday afternoon, we’ve been moving on,” the Clemson coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We’ve got a tough Georgia Tech team coming in here back in ACC play, and it doesn’t take us long. We have fun in the moment, but one of the best things about this deal is you get 12 Saturdays, and man, every one of them are just huge. You turn on the tape on Sunday and you see your next opponent and you say, ‘All right, let’s get back to work.’ Georgia Tech (is) biggest game of the year for us. I’m looking forward to a great week of preparation.”

Clemson couldn’t have started much better against Notre Dame, with Deshaun Watson completing a pair of touchdown passes less than seven minutes into the game. In the blink of an eye, the Tigers led 14-0.

“That was definitely one of the keys for us – to have a good, fast start,” Swinney said. “We wanted to get our crowd going early. The crowd’s great, but if you don’t give them something to cheer about, that doesn’t go well. We felt like that was critical. We were going to defer, and that was their plan, too. They won the toss and deferred and we got a big kick return, and the next thing you know, Deshaun makes the right call – 40-yard run – and bam, bam, bam, we’re in the end zone. it was a perfect script scenario for us right there coming out of the gates. So it was big.”

Saturday marked the tenth top-10 matchup of Swinney’s tenure at Clemson, as Notre Dame entered the night ranked sixth. Clemson, previously No. 12, now occupies that spot.

“They know how to prepare,” Swinney said of his staff. “We’ve got a systematic approach each and every week as far as how we get our guys ready, and we don’t really vary from that – regardless of what time or who we’re playing and all that stuff. I felt good about our preparation. I knew the guys were excited to play and all that type of stuff. But the execution was really good for three quarters, and defensively in the fourth quarter we really made some critical errors and they get back in the ball game. We fought hard to make key plays down the stretch.”

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to set up the two-point conversion but was stopped short of the goal line on a designed QB run.

“Just win that down,” Swinney told his players. “The good thing about where we are – we’re 4-0, but we have not played our best football. It’s not like we’ve gone out there and we’re 4-0 and we’ve just played perfect. We got a lot to coach and teach. We’re going to get better. . . . We were able to make the tackle (to win). That’s what it came down to. And sometimes when you’re playing great teams, you just got to have one more play than them – and Notre Dame is a great football team. They’re very, very talented. But in the end, we were just one play better.”

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