Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

No. 4 Clemson will spend bye week focusing on ball security

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 4 Clemson hopes to come out of its bye week with a better grip on the football — and its growing worries about turnovers.

The Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) have 16 turnovers (eight fumbles, eight interceptions), the second highest total in the Atlantic Coast Conference. While the mistakes haven't cost them in the standings, they've certainly caught the attention of Clemson coaches.

Clemson is 54th nationally in turnover margin, trailing 10 teams with losing records.

"It's unfortunate that it's costing us points," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Monday. "But we've just got to get back in the batter's box and take the next swing."

Clemson had four turnovers in its heart-stopping, 24-17 overtime win against North Carolina State, including two within 5 yards of the end zone.

The Wolfpack had the first pick-six of quarterback Deshaun Watson's career, then forced a pair of fumbles near their goal line to spoil drives of 78 and 39 yards.

Instead of having a comfortable lead, the Tigers were in a dogfight and only escaped after North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard missed what would've been a winning 33-yard field goal try as time expired.

Clemson made mistakes last year (27 turnovers in 15 games), but not like this, Swinney said. But in 54 trips inside its opponent's 20 yard line last year, the Tigers had just one turnover.

"This year in seven games, we've got six turnovers in the red zone," Swinney said. "That's why we've had a couple of close ball games. It is what it is."

Clemson will get some time to correct its issues during its bye week. The Tigers return to the field at No. 13 Florida State on Oct. 29, a contest that could go a long way to clinching a second straight trip to the ACC title game for the Tigers.

Clemson has struggled in Tallahassee, Florida, though, going just 1-11 since 1993. Swinney and the Tigers understand turning the ball over won't help them win there for the first time since 2006.

"Sometimes, they're like drops, they just get a little contagious," Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. "You've just got to back to work and everybody lock in a focus on the ball security."

The real shame of the errors, Swinney said, is that it spoiled the look of one Clemson's better offensive performances of the season. The Tigers had five drives of 64 yards or more against North Carolina State. Watson threw for a season-high 378 yards while Williams finished with a career best 12 catches for 146 yards.

"Offensively, it's one of the best games we've had," Swinney said. "One three and out, good rhythm all day. Just left a lot of points out there, a lot of points."

The coach said more importantly was his players' continued ability to dig deep when faced with problems and figure out how to win.

"I think we need to focus on the positive here," Swinney said.

There are plenty of them, too. Clemson has played the toughest part of its schedule and remained undefeated. Even slipping a spot in the rankings to No. 4 should not spoil the Tigers potential playoff spot if they remain perfect.

If Clemson can survive Florida State, it will be heavy favorites to stay perfect against its four remaining opponents in Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and South Carolina.

Clemson will put in the work to improve, Swinney said, players reminded to hold onto the ball and work on things like tucking it close to their bodies and tightening their grip in traffic.

"I don't have any doubt," Swinney said. "That we'll get it fixed."

No. 4 Clemson will spend bye week focusing on ball security 10/18/16 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2016 4:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams


    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  2. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  3. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Steven Souza Jr., hugging Mallex Smith after Smith’s solo home run in the eighth inning, feels relief after tests are negative on his injured hip.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)