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September 14, 2011

Dabo Swinney

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Clemson head football Coach Swinney.
COACH SWINNEY: Thank you, good to be with you all today. Biggest thing for us as a team as we move through this week in practice is try to continue to get better. We are 2-0 and we feel fortunate to be 2-0 and you know we feel like that we are improving in some areas and definitely have got a lot of work still to do.
But I like this it football team, and we are excited about the opportunity this week in playing Auburn. Obviously they have got the longest winning streak in the country and they have earned that, and we have got a tough task in front of us to try to knock these guys off.
But you know, we are looking forward to having a great environment here Saturday, and hopefully playing our first truly complete game of the season, because that's probably what it's going to take to beat these guys.
With that, I'll take whatever questions you ever.

Q. How hard is it to keep your team focused on just winning the game and not trying to seek revenge from the overtime loss from last year?
COACH SWINNEY: That's not a real big motivating factor. That might be something more for the fans or something.
We are just -- go through our normal process. Our formula success doesn't change regardless of who we play or where we play or when we play. It's really irrelevant to us as a team. We just focus on trying to practice the right way, and making sure our effort is where it needs to be and our commitment and just work to the standard that we have set. That's really all we focus on, and watch film and prepare.
They all know that this is a great opportunity for us, and that it's a team that we know a lot about, but they also know a lot about us.
At the end of the day, it's just trying to be the best team from an execution standpoint, because that's what we have to do to have a chance to win.

Q. In your opinion, where is your team struggling the most, after facing opponents like Wofford and not being able to beat them handily?
COACH SWINNEY: That always amuses me when I hear people talk about that. Nobody ever wants to give the opponent any credit. They are championship programs, and they are tough outs for anybody. So you know, we are very proud to be 2-0. Do we want to play better? Do we have to play better? Yes. But the objective is to win that game and whatever you've got to do to win that game.
So you know, that's really all we are focused on. There's a lot of areas we have to improve in and really just consistency to having good, crisp execution.
Defensively, we have got to tackle better. That's something that we have not done a great job of, and we have got to minimize the big plays and just play with some poise. We are playing a lot of young guys and got to keep growing those guys up offensively. We are doing a lot of good things there.
We have got to continue to take care of the ball. But the biggest thing is, you know, put it all together, two halves, which we have not done yet. So that's the objective just to go play a complete game.

Q. With the speculation nationally about the advancement of super conferences merging and 16-team leagues, you've played these games against Auburn and Alabama and I'm sure they have been beneficial to your program, if schools start playing nine- and ten-game conference schedules; there a reason that they might be less likely to schedule these big interconference matchups like this? And I wondered how important these games -- like the one you have this week have been, in getting exposure for your program to kids who might not otherwise see it and just the overall growth of Clemson football.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I mean, I think that those things would go away for sure, if we get into some kind of mega- conference type deal. And I have no idea if that's where it's going. You know, there's a lot of speculation, a lot of people talking about all that stuff. I really at this point -- I literally don't pay it any attention. Just got a job to do and I know it's above me. That's more the president's level right now as far as what's going on.
But it seems to be picking up some momentum and if it goes that route, I don't think you'll see games like this, which to me, is sad. I've always been a traditionalist with college football and I love some of the great rivalries that you have. It's great to see Alabama play Penn State in that type of stuff.
You know, I don't think you'll be able to do that if you're having 16 or 20 teams in a conference. Change is inevitable it seems and we'll just have to see how the landscape goes and then it will all shake out from there. But I have no idea right now how it's going to shake out.

Q. Do you get the sense though that that is one thing that players like about coming to Clemson that you guys do consistently schedule these games?
COACH SWINNEY: I think people like coming to Clemson because it's Clemson. We are in a great conference and we have an incredible environment here and a great fan base and an incredible game day experience, high academic standards, great coaches, great support and resources.
I think that's why they come to Clemson, because of those things. They know if you come to Clemson, you're going to play a great schedule and great teams and have a chance to win. But that's probably the biggest reason, not who we are playing.

Q. It's been well documented that Auburn has won ten games decided by eight points or fewer. Some attribute it to luck. What do you attribute it to?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, you make your own luck. I think that they have done a great job in creating a winning culture over there, Coach Chizik and his staff deserve a lot of credit.
I was a part of a 20-something game winning streak at Alabama and the one thing that I can remember is, you just expect to win. When you win that many games in a row, you expect to win. You just never panic. You expect for somebody to make a play and good things happen for you whenever that ball gets rolling and that's what's happened with Auburn.
People can say whatever they want. And they have just found a way to win for 17 straight games and that is incredibly difficult to do. Especially when you play a difficult schedule like they play, an out of conference schedule and have to win a Championship Game and stay healthy.
There's so much that goes into that, so you know, I don't really get into the luck. I mean, yeah, I think to be a championship team, you have to catch a break or two here along the way, but I believe that you make your own breaks.

Q. And you have experience with them last year in that overtime game obviously; can you talk about that experience, and do you expect this game this week to be similar to that one?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, the last two times we played Auburn they have been over time and unfortunately Clemson has come out on the short end of the both of those. I expect it to be a very hard-fought game.
I know our team is excited to play, and they are going to try to defend this turf with everything they have got and try to find a way to win the game. I mean, I don't doubt that at all. But I also know that Auburn is going to do everything they can to extend their streak. That's what they do.
And last year was a very physical game. We just made a couple more mistakes -- at the end of the day, we had some really critical missed opportunities that you have to make to win those type of games. And really, things that weren't totally in our control that we didn't take advantage of, and that was the biggest disappointment of that game was really just more things that we didn't do.
And it was a great football game, and I hate that it ended the way it did. But I would expect another hard-fought game for sure.

Q. A lot easier to prepare for them without Cam Newton? What's different?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, certainly I'm kind of glad Cam Newton is with the Carolina Panthers. I'm not going to lie to you about. That but they are very difficult to prepare for. Coach Naslon (ph) he uses their personnel very well, and whereas they may have called more quarterback counters or quarterback powers, because they had the ability of Newton. This year, they are just calling more of something else that was already in their system, but equally, equally as dangerous.
They have got some playmakers, 23 and 80 and 5 and 43, they are going to run their offense through those guys and you'd better know where they are. The biggest thing is just he's calling some things differently. But so far, they have kind of lived on the big play and found a way to win. We have to do a great job of stopping the run and making them have to go the distance and not giving them big plays.

Q. You talked about Auburn getting the ball rolling and how that helps you in close games and that sort of thing. Given how close you were at Auburn and where they ended up in the season and where you guys ended up the end of the season, was it -- do you have to play a little bit of the what if, if Cal Parker's pass is completed in the end zone?
COACH SWINNEY: I think that's part of it, every year, when you look back on your season, all teams, you look back on your season and you go, oh, man, that game right there, or oh boy, that was a moment that really created some momentum.
My first year we won down at Miami. They are a Top-10 team on the road. We upset them down there and that just kind of sparked us and we come back and beat Florida State and Virginia and win our division and go play in the Championship Game.
And then last year, we just never really recovered. We had some guys hurt. We continued to play hard. But we had a hard time winning the close ones. We had a hard time -- we missed a big kick down there at Auburn and as the season went, we never really were able to get the kick game going to where we could win those close ones and that was the story of our season.
I think our guys are confident, if nothing else, because they learn from all of their experiences. They learn from the positive. They learn from the negative. And if nothing else, seeing Auburn go on and win the National Championship, I think that was kind of a confirmation, at least in these guys, because we are a young program in what we are trying to establish for the long term here, and the biggest thing is that you have to establish a belief in what you're doing and a belief that you can be special. So I think that if nothing else that, gave these guys confirmation that, hey, we can play with anybody.
We have got to improve in some areas that we can line up and compete. So if nothing else, that's one positive when you're dealing with young people for them to be able to draw upon.

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