University of Miami

Clemson coach on ACC title game: ‘It’s not going to come down to a [turnover] chain’

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during a press conference at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, December 1, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during a press conference at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, December 1, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says the Miami Hurricanes have had a magical season, but he’s not about giving any of that credit to UM’s fabulous and famous turnover chain.

When the seventh-ranked Hurricanes (10-1) face the No. 1-ranked Tigers (11-1) Saturday night at 8 for the ACC Championship, Swinney, who has led Clemson to 42 wins in its past 45 games, says college football’s flashiest celebration prop will have nothing to do with the outcome.

“As far as the turnover chain, all that stuff, the name of the game is points,” Swinney said during a half hour pregame press conference Friday afternoon inside the bowels of Bank of America Stadium.

“They’ve had an unbelievable year creating turnovers, but so have we. We’ve scored 77 points off of turnovers this year. They’ve scored 72. We haven’t had a chain or anything like that, but both teams have had incredible years and have been very opportunistic to creating turnovers and scoring points off of those turnovers, both teams. I think that’s a major reason why we’re 11-1, and a major reason why they’re 10-1.

“We’ve scored a non-offensive touchdown in all five road games. Pick-sixes, scoop score, punt return for a touchdown — that’s what we focus on every single week. I don’t have any doubt this game — it’s not going to come down to a chain — it’s going to come down to players making plays, taking care of the ball, creating turnovers, field position, big plays. That’s what wins championship football.”

Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who came up with the idea to reward the playmaker who made an inteception or fumble recovery with a five-and-half pound, 10K, “Cuban Link” gold chain and have it placed over their head during a team celebration on the sideline, said last month he felt the turnover chain not only gave UM a psychological edge, but it also had a negative effect on its opponents.

Richt tried to downplay the notion on Friday.

“I don’t know [if it has a psychological effect]. I really don’t know for sure,” he said. “I know this: if we were 5-5, I’ve said this many times, and had five turnovers, then people would be making fun of the thing.

“Now we’re winning. We lead the nation in turnover ratio. It is a ratio. We’ve got a lot of takeaways, no doubt, but we didn’t give it away a lot. We’re No. 1 in America there. That’s big. But with the rise of our team, as far as the winning record, winning a Virginia Tech game on TV at 8 [o’clock at night], winning a Notre Dame game prime time, in our stadium, everybody is seeing all the things that come with it. The chain has been a huge part of it.”

Hurricanes fans have shown up for Saturday night’s game in droves and many are walking the streets wearing homemade turnover chains around their necks. Richt said at times UM fans have been cheering so loud to see the turnover chain, it’s carried into offensive series for the Hurricanes.

“The thing about the turnover chain is that it is Miami,” Richt said. “It’s got the big U, all the gems and sparkles, all that kind of thing. That’s kind of how we roll down there in Miami.

“The other thing, though, that I love about it, is it’s pure fun. I mean, any time a guy got a turnover, the only thing he did bad is trying to take his helmet off on the way to the sideline because he wants to put the chain on. I don’t see anybody taunting, waving at anybody. I see him running to the bench and celebrating a moment with his teammates and the fan base. That’s all we’re doing.

“I want them to have fun. I want to celebrate good things. It’s awesome.”

SWINNEY A RICHT FAN

Swinney, 48, said he’s always been a big fan of Richt’s and said the job he’s done in two short seasons to lead UM to the ACC title game was “incredible.” Richt, 57, was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year earlier this week.

“I’ve enjoyed watching it,” Swinney said of the Hurricanes’ turnaround. “I’m a Mark Richt fan. I always have been. I’ve always thought a lot of Coach Richt. He’s the real deal. He’s a good man. He’s a great football coach. He’s a great husband. He’s a great father. I think he’s about the right things and always has been.

“As a younger coach kind of coming up, watching his, you know, ascension, if you will, I’ve just always paid attention to Coach Richt. I mean, unbelievable job he did at Georgia. So I’m not surprised at all [the Hurricanes have made the ACC title game in Richt’s second year on the job]. I think it was a great hire by Miami, a great fit. I think he was able to come in and unite just the former players, the fan base, just bring a different mindset, structure and culture, if you will.

“He’s created a belief. Great energy in the program, chemistry. He’s given them, like I said, just good direction moving forward. I think it’s great for our league.”

The last time the Tigers and Hurricanes played, Clemson crushed Miami 58-0 at Hard Rock Stadium. The next day UM coach Al Golden was fired, starting the chain of events which eventually led to UM hiring Richt.

The Tigers, the defending national champions and two-time defending ACC champions, are 9 1/2 point favorites on Saturday.

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