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Dabo Swinney talks Clemson QB play, what went wrong in rivalry loss to Gamecocks

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney before his team plays South Carolina on Saturday, November 26, 2022.

Entering this weekend, Clemson football had won 40 straight home games at Memorial Stadium and seven straight games against top rival South Carolina.

The Tigers can say goodbye to both.

South Carolina escaped Death Valley with a 31-30 win over its biggest rival Saturday afternoon behind an excellent performance from quarterback Spencer Rattler and a game-winning field goal from Mitch Jeter at the 10:54 mark.

Here’s what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had to say at his postgame press conference after the Tigers lost their first home game since November 2016 against Pittsburgh.

Opening statement

“You’ve gotta congratulate Shane (Beamer) and South Carolina … your heart breaks. This is a game you never ever wanna lose ... there’s probably a reason nobody’s won eight in a row (in the series) ... My heart breaks for those seniors – tough way to finish the regular season but, man, I love those guys”

“This is not a feeling we’ve had in a long, long time but that’s our reality today … USC earned it. Field position was bad most of the game and the turnovers caught up with us … we had some missed plays, some drops, some critical big plays (we gave up) on defense ... it wasn’t our day”

“We had plenty of opportunities, but we did not deserve to win and they did ... it was a one-point game that could’ve gone either way with a play here, play there”

“This is a tough moment. I hate it for our fans ... we’re gonna go back to work Monday and see if we can win this league ... seven of the last eight years we’ve had an opportunity to win this league ... that would be a huge positive win to end the season as ACC champions ... again, a hurt locker room down there but hats off to South Carolina”

On the offensive struggles

“We had really poor field position … really, really frustrating for sure … we did some uncharacteristic things that were very frustrating. Dumb stuff ... We went for 200-plus rushing yards. That’s only the second time we’ve lost a game rushing for 200- plus since I’ve been here, we were 76-1 … usually when you can run the ball, you win

“Turnovers are the common thread (in the series). In that five year-run (of consecutive losses to USC) we had 15 turnovers to their three … we couldn’t capitalize, couldn’t put it together”

On if he considered putting in QB Cade Klubnik today

“We thought about it, but he (Uiagalelei) felt like he was OK (after a minor injury) and we stuck with him”

On if Klubnik will get ‘more opportunity’ against UNC

“We’ll see”

On RB Will Shipley

“I definitely wish we got him the ball a little bit more”

On defensive struggles

“Too many mistakes, too many missed opportunities … we’ve got a safety (Andrew Mukuba) who’s nosy on fourth and 1. I don’t know why … if we get a stop there, that’s points ... it’s a play here or there … the bottom line is SC played better. They deserved it”

On the rivalry

“Again, it’s the 119th game and nobody’s won eight in a row … there’s probably a reason that happens … these kids are normal people … the emotion of the game, I’m not sure we handled that very well … today just wasn’t our day … Shane did a great job of weathering the storm. We got up 14-0 and we didn’t take advantage … we had the lead into the fourth quarter”

On WR Antonio Williams

“Antonio is taking it tough, but we’re not 10-2 without him. I love him, I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”

On bouncing back

“You own it. You take the good with the bad and you keep moving forward … this is a game you live with and it’s very personal … it’s my responsibility to find a way to win … we didn’t get it done. Again, it comes with the territory … in 300-something days we’ll have another opportunity”

“We’re 10-2, not 2-10 … you learn from what’s in the rearview mirror … for a lot of people their season’s over, but for us we’ve got a championship game, an opportunity to win the ACC … we don’t have time to sit here and pout”