Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t distraught about the way his team played in its Week 1 loss to Duke.
The Tigers lost, 28-7, to the Blue Devils after three consecutive drives deep into Duke territory ended without any points. Clemson had the ball six times in the second half and failed to score a single point despite not punting the ball once.
Yet Swinney said he is happy with the way the Tigers performed. At least outside of all of the mistakes it made.
“I’m proud of what I saw on tape,” Swinney said at a Wednesday news conference. “We’ve won a lot of games around here where when I watch the tape, I’m not real happy.”
The Tigers were totally responsible for their inability to score in the second half. After getting a yard away from the end zone in their first drive of the third quarter, a false start backed the Tigers up to the 6-yard line. Clemson then lost four more yards on first down before having to settle for a short 23-yard field goal attempt that was blocked.
The next two drives ended with fumbles. QB Cade Klubnik fumbled a handoff on first and goal and then RB Phil Mafah fumbled on first and goal from the 1-yard line. Duke scored six plays after Mafah’s fumble for a 14-point lead.
“If we do what we did offensively for the rest of the year we won’t lose another game,” Swinney said. “It’s just that simple. I’ll sign up for that right now. I was very encouraged by what we saw and it’s unfortunate that got overshadowed because we lost the game but that’s what happens when you don’t do some of the routine things. We had a cadence situation, we had ball handling, we put the ball on the ground a couple times. Three trips inside the five we get nothing. Couple low kicks and then defensively to hold a good offense to 13 points deep into the fourth quarter, I’ll sign up for that every week too. But we didn’t do much offensively to help them.”
It may seem counterintuitive that Swinney is happy with the way his team played on offense while also saying that it “didn’t do much.” But given the nature of Clemson’s mistakes, you can see where he’s coming from with that sentiment. Monday night felt like a night where anything that could go wrong went wrong for the Tigers and sometimes that just happens.
Yet Clemson would also be better served to average more yards per pass than per run over the course of the season. Monday night’s game was the first for the Tigers’ new-look offense under former TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, and the running game looked great. Clemson rushed 40 times for 213 yards and could seemingly get yards at will.
There was a lot to be desired from the passing game, however. Klubnik threw an interception and had just 209 passing yards on 43 attempts. Clemson averaged 5.3 yards a carry and 4.9 yards a pass.
Without the turnovers and missed field goals, that might have been enough for Clemson to beat Duke on Monday night. But it’s not enough to win the ACC or even think about the College Football Playoff.