No. 2 Clemson looks for win vs. Troy - even if it's ugly
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had a message for Tigers fans worried about the team's too-close-for-comfort victory over Auburn last week: ''We won.''
Swinney and the second-ranked Tigers (1-0) look to do more of the same Saturday when they open their home season against Troy (1-0).
Swinney understands the angst of supporters who dream of long touchdown passes, quick scores and points nearly every time the Tigers touched the ball. Now that it did not happen in Clemson's 19-13 season-opening win only means the stakes have risen dramatically for Swinney's team.
''I'm sorry we disappointed them. That's all I can tell them,'' Swinney said. ''We went to win the game and that's what we did.''
Swinney's not ignoring the mistakes and poor execution he saw at times in the win. There was a dropped TD pass and a fumble by Mike Williams, missed connections from quarterback Deshaun Watson to receiver Deon Cain and tight end Jordan Leggett and some failures on offense Clemson didn't have much last season.
''We weren't quite as clean,'' Swinney said.
Watson said any bobbles are things that can and will be worked out this week as Clemson tries for its 17th straight win at Death Valley. ''So it's just a learning process,'' Watson said.
Troy comes in off a 57-17 win over Austin Peay that coach Neal Brown said enfused them with confidence heading into week two.
''We're taking the field with belief,'' he said.
Things to watch when Troy plays at Clemson:
CLEMSON'S ROCK: The inspirational Clemson talisman, Howard's Rock, turns 50 this season and will be honored by the program all year long. It was coach Frank Howard who in 1966 put the rock on a pedestal at the stadium, telling players if they weren't willing to give maximum effort they should ''keep their filthy hands off of my rock.'' Ever since, Tigers have rubbed the rock before entering the field believing in the power and spirit of those who've gone before.
USING THE WEAPONS: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson figures to utilize many more players on offense than he did in the opener against Auburn. Look to receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud, tight end Jordan Leggett and freshman running back Tavien Feaster to see more action against Troy. Clemson's offense averaged more than 500 yards and 40 points on the way to an Atlantic Coast Conference title. It put up 399 yards and 19 points at Auburn last week.
DON'T I KNOW YOU? It will be the second straight week Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney will see a defensive coordinator he used to employ. Last game, it was Kevin Steele who led Auburn's defense and who was in charge of Clemson's group under Swinney from 2009 through 2011. This time, it's Vic Koenning, who directs Troy's defense and was at Clemson for four seasons from 2005 through 2008, including six games that final year when Swinney was elevated to interim coach. When Swinney gained the fulltime job, he told Koenning he would not be retained and the defensive assistant resigned before the bowl game. Koenning says he still has friends on staff, although he and Swinney have not maintained a relationship.
LAST MEETING: Clemson's run to the top of the college football world started in earnest in 2011 in a season opener with Troy. The Tigers had come off their last losing season, 6-7 in 2010, and trailed Troy 16-14 at halftime with some disgruntled fans at Death Valley booing Swinney and the Tigers. Things turned around in the second half as Clemson rolled to a 43-19 win. The Tigers started 8-0 that season and won the ACC crown, starting a run of five straight seasons with 10-or-more victories.
BUYING IN: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and wife Kathleen donated $1 million to the school's booster group, IPTAY, in support of the football team. The fund-raising group helps pay for athletic scholarships. Swinney received a new contract in April that will pay him $30.75 million over six years. It also raised his salary $1.1 million from last year to this as he'll make $4.55 million in 2016.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org