Audio link and transcripts are below. Dabo is at the 20 minute 30 second mark, and Fisher is right after him. You can skip ahead by using the bar at the bottom of the player.
Proud of our team for how they finished last week in a really, really difficult game against a great team in NC State, a great environment, especially from our last outing on the road. Good to see us respond a little bit better. So just really proud of our team and the growth that I've seen in them. We're excited about this week. You know, our seniors are down to their last two games here at Death Valley, and it's a special place to play, and I know these guys are excited about the opportunity to compete for the division on Saturday against Florida State, which is pretty much kind of what we knew it would come down to, and then we've got our senior day next week.
It's a special time this time of year, and off to a good start with our practice this week. Got a really huge challenge with Florida State. This is as talented a team as you're going to play. Got great players everywhere. They've had some tough losses, but we don't have any illusions other than the fact that we're going to have to play our best four quarters of the season to have a chance to beat these guys.
Q. To look at how your team started 6-0 in the season and to have that loss to Syracuse and then get back to winning, just what you can say about how you saw your team respond to the adversity and to that loss, what they learned from it and how they got back on the horse pretty quickly.
DABO: Yeah, well, I just think that's just ultimately what really matters more than anything is always how you respond to something. It's never really what happens, it's always how you respond to what happens, and that's in life and the game of football, everything. We've been a very consistent program for many years now because of kind of what we call the windshield mentality of, hey, you put everything you've got into it each week, it's the biggest game of the year. You know, fortunately most of them have gone our way, but occasionally, hey, it doesn't. If you don't have the right mindset, it can be a stumbling block for you. If you do have the right mindset, it can be an opportunity to grow, and that's kind of, I think, why we've been able to be very consistent; just having that mindset and not getting too high with a big win or too down with a tough loss and letting that define you or destroy your season. Just let it develop you.
So I think that's a choice. Every time you have any type of setback, it's a choice, and same thing when you have a lot of success. It's a choice on how you process that and how you refocus on what's next. That's the culture that we've tried to create here, and this is a very young football team. I mean, we've got six seniors. Our juniors are coming off their -- they went 14-1, 14-1, so they haven't had a lot of so-called failure, if you will, and so when you've got a young team, you're always coaching, and as a coach, you're always anxious, how are these guys going to respond, and are they listening. How's the leadership going to step up? So I've been really proud of this team because I've seen a lot of growth in them over the last few weeks, and I think that's, again, just a good sign of the type of young men that we have, our coaches, and just the culture that we have. You know, we responded, we self-evaluate, we go back to work, and you try to go win the next one.
We've got eight wins, and we're excited about that. But we want to get nine. Can't get 10 until you get nine, and that's our focus.
Q. NC State has played you close the last couple seasons. What you can say about the climate of the Atlantic Division which is supposed to be yourselves and Florida State but obviously many teams have found ways to improve over time.
DABO: Yeah, those other teams, they're not getting that memo. This is a great conference, top to bottom, and I've said it many times, I've been kind of beating that drum for the past few years. All you've got to do is look at the -- I don't know, what do we have, we're like 9-3 in bowl games last year, post-season success and the amount of teams that have been bowl eligible. This league is incredibly difficult. I mean, every single week, anybody can beat anybody. I mean, it's not Clemson and Florida State; anybody in this division can beat you. I have such great respect for the job that Addazio is doing at BC, such great respect for Dino and what he's done at Syracuse. I mean, Dave Doeren has built a great team and program at NC State. I mean, man, they've got -- they're a handful, Louisville. They've got the Heisman Trophy winner over there. They're a nightmare to get ready for. Wake Forest and what Clawson has done, I mean, putting them back and making them bowl eligible. I mean, just the consistency that you're seeing in this division is incredible. Obviously Jimbo, I mean, he's as successful a coach and program as there is in college football. I know they haven't had the year they wanted to have this year and sometimes you've got to look beyond just the scoreboard, but man, they're Florida State, and he's an unbelievable coach. I mean, this is a really, really difficult league and incredibly difficult division. But you know what? Isn't that the way we want it? To me that's the way you want it. You know, for years everybody talked about how bad this league was and couldn't win postseason and couldn't win out of conference. It's not really a discussion anymore. Anybody that really understands and pays attention, this league is top to bottom incredibly strong, and if you don't show up, I don't care who you are, you've got a chance to get beat. Our guys understand that, and it's just a bunch of good coaches. I'm proud of this league.
Q. What's your assessment of how your run defense is playing as you get ready for that Florida State running game?
DABO: Did you say our run defense?
DABO: Well, I didn't think we were great last week. Man, give them some credit. I thought their -- they had a heck of a group, their offensive line, their backs. Quarterback is a great player. We didn't fit some things very well. They do a good job with the stretch, and Florida State, that's one of their main plays is running the stretch and the counter and quick toss and inside zone and just a lot like NC State. So we're going to have to play a lot better. We've got to fit things properly. We've got to leverage the football. This is a group that if you don't contain the ball, they get outside of you, you're in trouble. So we've got to set the edge, and backers have to do a good job of fitting it properly and playing over the top when they're supposed to play over the top and not running underneath, and then same thing with our secondary. They're a big part of our run game.
It just all ties together, but we've been very good from just a season standpoint, but we've still got a lot of room for improvement, no question about it, getting off of blocks, finishing tackles. We missed a lot of tackles last week. For us to continue on the path we want to be on, we're going to have to get a little better.
Q. I talked to you on Sunday, you were getting ready for Florida State; what did you see since Sunday on the film because I know you just started when I was talking to you, you just started looking at them. How dangerous are they as a 3-5 squad?
DABO: They're very dangerous. I promise you, there's no coach that's going to turn on the tape and be excited about playing Florida State. They've got players everywhere. I mean, they're very experienced up front on the offensive line. These receivers are massive. I mean, No. 18, Tate, he's 6'5", 225, 230 pounds, great ball skill guy. No. 89, he's 6'3", 220 something. That No. 8 is a great player. He's not as big, but man, he's a heck of a playmaker for them. I mean, Akers is considered the best back in the country coming out of high school, and man, he's as advertised. He's thick and strong, averaging five and a half yards a carry, very good player. Their tight end is an outstanding player, Izzo. They use him well.
And then the quarterback has just gotten better and better. He's not a true freshman anymore. He's gotten better and better as the year has gone on. They've got a tough situation. They lose probably a Heisman candidate with their quarterback, and now you've got a true freshman in there, and they've lost some close games. But they've been in position to win, and that's because of the type of talent that they have. But this kid has really improved. He can push the ball down the field. They do a great job with their screen game. They'll max it up and take some shots. But they're built by running the football. That's who they are. They can run the ball, and you're in trouble. It's going to be a huge challenge for us. And then Jimbo is a great coach. They do a good job of just formationing and creating leverage, whether it's in the passing game or the run game. They do as good a job as anybody we play schematically year in and year out.
And then defensively, they've got, I don't know, one, two, three, four, five, six -- they've got about nine or ten guys that started for them last year a number of games. A bunch of experience. They've got some freaky dudes in the secondary led by that No. 3, Derwin James. He is unbelievably long and athletic, and they're excellent up front. No. 9, Josh Sweat, is a great football player. 91 is as good a D-tackle as we've seen. 99 is a great player. They've got a bunch of guys. So all their guys are back at backer, and just a really good team. I mean, they're just typical Florida State. Only thing different with Florida State this year is just their record. You know, that's it.
But the personnel, the talent, the athleticism is just typical Florida State. They've had three games that have been kind of the last play, and like I said, a true freshman quarterback in a difficult scheme. He's had to kind of learn on the ropes. But this is an outstanding group, well-coached, and it's just typical Clemson-Florida State match-up, two good teams, and it's going to be a tough one.
Fisher: Very proud of our team the way we competed with Syracuse. Very hard-fought victory. Syracuse is playing great football this year. Done a great job. Dino and the guys have really made a heck of a improvement on that team, and they were a very good football team. We were very fortunate to come out of that. Our kids played very hard. There's some things we've got to continue to work on and grow on as a team, but very hard. Their competitiveness and nature to win and made some big plays on offense. Defense did a nice job. 3rd down they gave up a couple plays and we've got to do a better job on offense on 3rd down, something we had been doing on both sides but something we've got to continue to work on.
In those regards, very excited to go play Clemson as far as what they mean and kind of program they are and what Dabo has done up there, but at the same time it's going to be an extremely difficult game. They're by far the team that is the most complete team that you play on offense, defense, special teams, and we'll have our hands full and have to play a great game.
Q. The defense has six takeaways this year, which I'm sure is well below what your typical expectations would be. I'm curious how much of that might be related to just the fact that you've been in so many close games and maybe they're a little reluctant to take risks on a play to try to jump a route or something like that, that they're playing a little less aggressively than they typically would in past years?
Fisher: No, I don't think that's the case. I think turnovers come in bunches sometimes. You've got to make plays. We had a couple opportunities to make a couple more in this last game. I don't think that has anything to do with it.
Q. Is it just a matter of luck then?
Fisher: No, you've got to make turnovers. You've got to create pressure. You've got to hit your quarterback, and when you get opportunities to catch a ball or strip a ball or get on a fumble, you've got to do that. We've had a couple opportunities, which we haven't, and we've got to create some more situations where we pressure them where guys make bad decisions. But also we've played some guys where quarterbacks have made good decisions with the ball and taking care of it.
Q. What is Jacques Patrick's status for this weekend? Will he be able to play against Clemson?
Q. How has he looked --
Fisher: He's had good practices and looks well, and he should be able to go.
Q. I know you spoke in your intro about Syracuse just a little bit. Just to go a little further on what you think about what that team has looked like since Dino Babers has taken over a year ago?
Fisher: Tremendous, just the eyeball test. Their strength, their size, ability to change their bodies in the weight room, they've done a great job. You think about what they've done this year, they played us to a one-possession game, had a chance to win the game. They defeated Clemson, Miami was 20-19 with two, three minutes to go in the game and had it all the way down and LSU was like 26-24 or 28, something like that. Last year all those games were blowout games against them.
You think about the significant changes they've made and what they've done, he's done one heck of a job, and then they've won the games. They're dynamic on offense. They've got players, and defense has done a really good job. I think he's done a heck of a job.
Q. And I asked this to Dabo Swinney, as well. It's typical in the Atlantic Division for people to think of Clemson and Florida State, but to see how this division has improved, what you can say about how teams have really come up and made this a very difficult division to play in?
Fisher: Extremely difficult. They've made it extremely difficult. And like I said, a year ago you could go back and look at it, it's one of the best divisions in football, period. You look at any division in football across the country, I think it's definitely one of the best ones if not the best.
Q. What's your assessment of your run defense as you get ready to take on that Clemson ground game?
Fisher: We've played pretty well in the run. Like I said, Derrick and Josh and those guys, but you're going to have to be very physical, and the thing they do to make you commit to it so much, which creates all the one-on-ones in their pass game. And then their quarterback runs, that's the thing, it really -- they get up numbers that way when the quarterback runs, and they run a lot of different runs with him, so that makes it extremely difficult. We're going to have to really, I mean, find ways to add guys to the box when you have to, but at the same time, you can't make yourself too vulnerable, so it's going to be a hard mix.
Q. Just talk about Blackman; how is his development going, because last week against Syracuse it didn't look like he turned over the ball. How is he improving?
Fisher: He is, all the little fundamental things daily and the situations he's in and the experience of being in those situations and being able to execute your fundamentals, and like I say, not worrying about winning and just worrying about playing, and he's doing a much better job. He's improving in all areas across the board with reads or game situations being able to create plays. He's getting better.
Q. And talk about how dangerous is it to play down at Clemson; how great is that environment to play for an away team, and how are you going to get ready for that environment because they love their football down there?
Fisher: No, they do. Everybody -- there's a lot of people in the South that love it, that's for sure, and they definitely do. They allow the noise, the crowd noise, you practice with it, you have it out there in your practice so the guys can communicate and do those things, but you still can't simulate it. They've got great players and got a great program and great tradition, always have.