Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney got defensive over repeated questions about his team's performance in a 47-21 win over Syracuse on Saturday, after the Tigers needed a 21-point scoring run over the final 16 minutes to put the contest out of reach.
After a question about the team's energy level to start the game, Swinney said, "I just want to make sure I'm at the right press conference here. We did win the game, I think. Am I in the right spot? You don't usually score 47 points if you don't have the right energy. We made some mistakes. It's not energy when you don't make a certain play, or snap the ball over a head. Just didn't execute, but at the end of the day, it's not easy to win.
"There's a lot of teams out there that would have lost this game with some of the mistakes that we made. We won the game by almost four touchdowns. I'm not getting any questions about 'Proud of you guys for winning the game.' It's a lot of negative questions. You're not going to get any negative stuff from me."
It was quarterback Trevor Lawrence who said the team's energy was not where it needed to be at the beginning of the game during his Zoom interview with reporters before Swinney addressed the media. One week after beating Georgia Tech 73-7, Clemson found itself in a fight with the visiting Orange -- a team it was favored to beat by more than 40 points.
Syracuse closed the game to 27-21 in the third quarter before cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. recovered a fumble and scored to give the Tigers more of a cushion. Running back Travis Etienne returned from the locker room to score the game's final two touchdowns after needing an IV for cramps.
"It's obvious we didn't play our best game, probably played our worst game up to this point, especially offensively, and it starts with me," said Lawrence, who went 27-of-43 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. "I didn't play the worst game of my career, but didn't play great. I just think our energy wasn't what it needed to be, and we picked it up and found a way to win and finished well. But definitely going to have to play better down the stretch if we want to get where we want to go. That starts with me. I don't think I played a very good game today."
Lawrence threw the first pick-six of his career on a pass he said he threw slightly wide. But it was more than Lawrence. The Tigers couldn't get their running game going against a team that gave up over 700 yards on the ground combined in its past two games, and the receivers continue to struggle making deep plays down the field. Clemson also had a punt blocked, and the defense gave up an 83-yard touchdown pass -- the longest play the Tigers have allowed since Jameis Winston threw a 94-yard touchdown pass against them in 2013.
Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said this would be a valuable learning moment for Clemson as it moves forward in the season.
"Our standard is set. We know what the standard is and today we didn't quite play up to that standard," Elliott said. "Our guys have done a great job up to this point. Things have been kind of smooth, so from my perspective, I welcome the adversity because it's an opportunity for us to humble ourselves and say nobody's going to lay down for us. We've got to stay committed. We can't shortcut anything, and we've got to bring the right mindset and energy every single day in practice and every single game or you're going to have days like this."