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November 5, 2014

Dabo Swinney

DABO SWINNEY:  Well, we're excited about heading up to Greensboro today and over to Winston‑Salem tomorrow.  Looking forward to being able to play with a national audience on Thursday night, and our team has, I think, prepared very well.  I think the open date has been good for us.  We're getting some guys back healthy.  Got a few guys back, and hopefully some more next week.
You know, Wake Forest is a team that is very young, a team that has improved, I think, throughout the year.  You can really see the impact that Coach Clawson and his staff is having on these guys.  Very impressed with how hard they play.  They've been right on the verge in several games, six‑point game last week with Boston College, and 16‑3 game at the end of three quarters against Florida State in Tallahassee.
Very capable group, but for us it's about just putting it all together and trying to play our best football game, competing at a high level and trying to get off to a great start in the month of November and keep our momentum going.

Q.  Just starting off with the evolution of your quarterback, Cole Stoudt, just what you've seen from him in his time at Clemson as well as through some of the adversity that he's had this season.
DABO SWINNEY:  Cole has been tremendous throughout his career.  He was a great backup for us and was always ready and came through for us every time we needed him his first three years here.  He didn't get to red shirt, had to play as a true freshman, so he was the backup the day he got here, and he's loved his Clemson experience.  Obviously he knew with Tajh Boyd he probably was going to have a hard, uphill battle beating him out, but he's stayed the course.
I think he's loved his Clemson experience and the people here, and he's worked really, really hard to make himself into a good player.  Very proud of how he went out and competed this spring and worked this summer to try to win the job, which he did.  Obviously we made a change after a few games, a couple games, but really wasn't what Cole did, it was just more what Deshaun Watson did and who he is.
He had a choice of how to handle that, and man, he just handled it with such grace and class, and just continued to be a great leader for us as if he was the starter and stayed ready.  He's led us to three straight wins now, came in against Louisville and really wasn't ready to play.  He was hurt but kind of gutted it out and played better up at BC and played much better against Syracuse.
I'm proud of Cole, and I'm really happy that he's been able to have some success this year.  He's definitely one of our best leaders, and looking forward to hopefully seeing him play his best game tomorrow night.

Q.  And then as far as that Syracuse game that you brought up, just the key points that you took away from Syracuse and that 16‑6 victory, what you saw from them going up against you?
DABO SWINNEY:  From Syracuse?

Q.  Yeah, from what you took away from Syracuse.
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, I was really proud of our guys.  Defensively we played a tremendous four quarters.  The first half we had several turnovers, but I was proud of our guys for hanging in there.  The second half we kept the ball 22 minutes.  We only played eight minutes of defense.  That's been something that I was very encouraged with and how we were able to control the ball in the second half.  We kept it the last eight minutes and 17 seconds.  We ran the football.  So there were a lot of positives.
I was impressed with Syracuse.  I thought that they did what they needed to do to give themselves a chance to win in the game.  I was impressed with the toughness of their quarterback.  They won the turnover margin, but we just made a few more plays than they did.  It was a good team win for us, and hopefully something we can build on.

Q.  I'll ask you one more time before game time tomorrow, how did Deshaun look yesterday, and are plans still the same as you announced?
DABO SWINNEY:  Yeah, nothing has changed.  He looked fine.  Like I said yesterday, he'll be ready to play, and he'll only play if I really feel like we've got to have him to win the game, otherwise we really want to try to wait until Monday before we really cut him loose.  But he'll be geared up and ready to go.

Q.  Given that, you only scored 16 points I think against Syracuse and only 17 points the game before that.  What do you need to do offensively if it's not a question of putting DeSean in there?  How do you get more points this week?
DABO SWINNEY:  We only needed seven.  We scored 16 against Syracuse.  We were points to the good.  We just need one more point than the opponent.  That's all we need to do.  We're not trying to win a popularity contest or anything like that, we're just trying to win the game, and what we've got to do to score points is take care of the ball, first of all.  Let's don't turn it over four times.  That's not a good recipe.  And then we've got to finish drives.  We've put some really good drives together, really good drives where we've come away with no points, especially in the red zone has been the most disappointing thing for us this year where we've been in position to score and we haven't finished, and it's been a lot of different things from turnovers to missed kicks to just poor execution to bad call, kind of a combination of all those things, bad snaps, whatever, that have really hurt us and when we've had scoring opportunities.
We've just got to capitalize and be very consistent in finishing our drives.

Q.  For the past 24 games Florida State has been the class of the league, but this year they've had some close calls.  Do you see the gap between the top and the rest of the league narrowing this year?
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, I think that this is a very competitive league.  I don't think there's really much difference at all.  I think that Florida State was a very dominant team this year, and they've had some close games this year, but great teams find a way to win, and that's what they've done.
But as far as the league goes, I mean, last year we had 11 bowl teams.  When you've got 11 teams with winning records and all that kind of stuff, you have to bring it every single week.  I think this is a deep league from that standpoint.  Some of the other leagues out there, they've got two or three really good teams, but it's really, really weak on the back end.  We're a little more balanced, I think, in that regard.  Anybody can truly beat anybody on any given game.

Q.  Talk about Wake Forest's corners, Noel and Johnson.  How good are they on the defensive side of the ball?
DABO SWINNEY:  They're very good.  They're as good as we'll play.  They've been there forever.  I mean, I just could not believe when I got the depth chart these guys were still there.  I mean, we really have watched these guys for four years.  They're fifth‑year seniors, and just very disciplined, very smart, crafty players.  They do a great job, I think, in their film study, and it really challenges you to do a great job offensively from a technique standpoint.  You have to be very fundamentally sound out at the receiver position because if you're not, then they're all over you, and it's a tipped ball or it's a pick.
So we've got a big challenge for us on the outside, and it's not just them.  Their safety is the second leading tackler in the league, and they've got a lot of speed.  Their backup, No.25 to No.9, he can really run, shows up on film.  It's a very good secondary, and hopefully we can protect like we need to be able to protect, and that will help us and put a little more pressure on those guys.
Noel and Johnson are two of the best that we've seen for sure.

Q.  And playing on a Thursday night, do you see that as difficult because I know last week Florida State had a difficult game against Louisville on Thursday night.  Are Thursday nights always a difficult night to play with all the national media on you?
DABO SWINNEY:  I don't care when you play Louisville, it's going to be difficult.  You can play them on Monday, Saturday, Sunday, Thursday.  They're really good.  For us, we just try to make the week the same.  It can get a little confusing from time to time, but Saturday was a Monday for us, Sunday was a Tuesday, Monday was a Wednesday.  Today is a Friday for us from a mentality standpoint and a preparation standpoint.  We really don't change at all.  We just kind of keep the prep the same.  They tell us when to play; our job is to be ready.  We don't really get too caught up in what day we play or what time we play or any of that kind of stuff.  We just try to play to a standard.

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