Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has it all backward. He should be embracing “Clemsoning.”
Think of it this way, Dabo:
— Clemsoning translates to cleansing an opponent such as a rout of Miami, 58-0.
— Clemsoning deciphers as dramatically scouring Notre Dame at Death Valley, 24-22.
— Clemsoning means dismissing a letdown by handling Georgia Tech 43-22.
It was before the Georgia Tech game that Swinney went on a rant when asked during a media session about “Clemsoning.” The negative connotation referred to fearing a letdown against Georgia Tech after beating Notre Dame in an emotional Saturday night game.
Swinney is sensitive to the word that described past Clemson losses. It won’t be fully erased until a strong ACC title season is followed by a quality bowl win. In 2011, Clemson won the ACC, but the No. 14-ranked Tigers were embarrassed by No. 23 West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.
“I think it’s ridiculous you’re even asking me that question,” Swinney snapped. “That you even say the word. I mean, I’m serious. I’m sick of it. I don’t know why you bring up the dadgum word. How about some of these other teams out there that lose to unranked opponents all the time? That’s our 33rd win versus unranked opponents. We haven’t lost to anybody unranked since 2011, but I have to come to a press conference in 2015 and get asked that. And that’s all media bullcrap.
“I can you how they (his players) feel about it. They don’t like it. It’s a lack of respect. It’s not doing your homework and paying attention to what reality is. Should not be asked that question. Period.”
Labels died hard, though. Fair or not, No. 3-ranked Clemson needs more than a 7-0 start to shake the tag. But in this age of parity, it’s easy to suffer a trap-game loss. And it’s even easier for the pack mentality of the media to latch onto such story angles.
One of the reasons ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit is the best in the business is he doesn’t follow the pack. He doesn’t take a simple term as “Clemsoning” and run with it. As Swinney implored the media, he does his homework.
“See, I think they changed this mentality four years ago,” Herbstreit said. “This to me is just old news. Clemson is not the ‘Clemsoning’. They don’t do that anymore. If they lose today, it’s because Georgia Tech out-executed them. Their offense finally started to click, and they made plays. But Clemson’s not, in my opinion, gonna look at Georgia Tech and say ‘aw, it’s just Georgia Tech’. They don’t do that. They’ve not done that since he’s been the head coach. I don’t anticipate that.”
The team that should fear a “Clemsoning” this week is North Carolina State (5-2, 1-2 ACC Atlantic) when the Wolfpack hosts the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC Atlantic) Saturday to Carter-Finley Stadium.
Clemson started the season unimpressively, but the Tigers are on a roll now. Running back Wayne Gallman is third in the ACC with 722 yards rushing and quarterback Deshaun Watson fourth in passing with 1,523 yards.
The passing game adapted to losing All-American wide receiver Mike Williams in the season opener. Artavis Scott had a breakout game, making up for Williams’ absence, with 10 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown against Boston College. Tight end Jordan Leggett has played well enough to be added to the Mackey Award watch list.
Watson, a sophomore, may have been tentative coming back from last year’s injuries – and the coaches careful in their play calling – but he’s putting up numbers now. He’s now 11-1 as a starter after he took over the role last year and went 4-1. He’s thrown 15 touchdown passes, one more than he had last season. Against Boston College, he was 27 of 41 for 435 yards passing.
On defense, Shaq Lawson has 13.5 tackles for a loss to rank ninth in the nation. His six sacks are third in the ACC. Cordrea Tankersly is tied for second in interceptions. Their play has helped the Tigers overcome losses on defense to graduation, suspensions, injuries and a player that quit the team.
But N.C. State has talent and a coach known for building a program. Dave Doeren’s team could come together at any time in the second half. Swinney knows this.
“They’re a very dangerous team,” Swinney said on a Wednesday ACC teleconference call. “This is a team that is capable of certainly beating us. We’re going to have to play well. They can beat anybody on their schedule. They’re talented.”
“Clemsoning” can still raise its ugly head against N.C. State or later this year, but for now Swinney can say
“Clemsoning” means scouring another opponent.