Clemson University

Clemson's Swinney takes on the role of eternal optimist

CLEMSON, -- Football coaches often gain inspiration from Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant or Vince Lombardi. Clemson's Dabo Swinney draws his from the Jim Carrey movie, "Dumb and Dumber."

Things may look bleak for Swinney's chances at keeping the job he got a month ago after Tommy Bowden stepped away, especially since the Tigers' 41-27 loss to Florida State officially ended their Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes.

But despite his 1-2 mark as coach, Swinney channels eternal optimist Lloyd Christmas, Jim Carrey's character in the hit comedy.

"That part in the movie where the good-looking gal tells that guy (Christmas), 'You know there's only one in 10 million chances I'd go out with you,'" Swinney recounted. "And his reaction was, 'So you're saying there's a chance."

"That's my mentality," Swinney continued. "As long as there's a chance, I'm fired up."

Now, if only he can get the disappointing Tigers (4-5, 2-4 ACC) to feel the same way.

A team picked as the league's runaway favorites this summer needs to sweep its final three games simply to reach a bowl game. That stretch starts Saturday with improved Duke (4-5, 1-4) at Death Valley.

Swinney has spent most of his time working on the team's psyche, battered since the season-opening 34-10 loss to Alabama.

By the time Bowden stepped away, the Tigers were in an emotional freefall.

"I think we were a very fractured program three ballgames ago," Swinney said. "I don't feel that now."

Then again, Clemson hasn't see much winning since then either. The Tigers lone victory was at Boston College, where a 17-0 lead slipped away before they won 27-21.

Clemson gave up an early 10-point lead at Florida State as the Seminoles defense eventually took charge. Still, Swinney says there's time for the Tigers to straighten themselves out and finish with a flourish.

"We may have lost these two games with coach Swinney, but we played our hearts out," freshman offensive lineman Mason Cloy said.

They also improved their offensive rhythm.

Against Georgia Tech, the Tigers committed six turnovers and put up just 17 points. The turnovers fell to two the next week against Boston College, then to one -- a devastating pick six thrown by Cullen Harper -- in the loss to the Seminoles.

"We're very disappointed in the loss," Harper said. "Still, we have a lot to play for."

One could be Swinney's head-coaching future.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips has said Swinney would have the opportunity to gain the position during the season's second half. That was still when Tiger fans had hope the team could rebound for a late charge and play for the ACC crown they were supposed to waltz away with last August.

The rumors are swirling about Clemson courting some offensive assistants at Oklahoma to fill the Clemson job. A picture was published online showing Phillips visiting Oklahoma. Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Tuesday night he had not been contacted by anyone about a head coaching position, but Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables skipped an interview session.

Swinney says he spends almost no time worrying about what might happen.

"I don't have time for that," he said. "I might be in Hawaii selling sunglasses on the beach."

• Who: Duke Blue Devils (4-5, 1-4 ACC) at Clemson Tigers (4-5, 2-4)

• Time: Noon

• TV: Raycom Network

• Radio: WRHI-AM (1340)