Clemson arrives home at 5:30 a.m. from Virginia Tech, immediately gets back to drawing board for Wake Forest | Sports

CLEMSON — Clemson football players and coaches grabbed a quick shower, changed into their suits and ties, snagged a fast postgame meal, hit the media room for press obligations, then loaded the bus before a trip back to Clemson.

It was the early hours of Sunday morning, just after the No. 2 Tigers knocked off then-No. 12 Virginia Tech 31-17 at Lane Stadium on Saturday night in primetime.

By the time the Tigers arrived back in Clemson and crawled into bed, it was 5:30 a.m.

Players slept in Sunday, while coaches met and reviewed Wake Forest film in the afternoon and into the evening. On Monday, the entire group is right back to it. Such is the lifestyle of the nation’s No. 2 team.

There are no days off this time of year for coach Dabo Swinney and his staff, and certainly no time to waste as Clemson turns its sights toward Wake Forest at home this week. For as dominant as the Atlantic division of the ACC is, the Demon Deacons don’t lack talent, having almost knocked off Florida State on Saturday.

“I’m just now really getting started (on reviewing film). I’m actually looking at their defense right now, but I have watched them play a couple times,” Swinney said on his 6 p.m. Sunday teleconference call. “(Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford) … he’s a winner. That’s what I would say first and foremost. He’s got a lot of heart, he just puts everything he’s got into trying to help his team win. He plays tough, I think he’s their leading rusher. Just a good football player, man.”

While Clemson’s defense should have an answer again — as it has for every quarterback it has faced this season — what Swinney wants to see this week is improvement with capitalizing on offensive opportunities. The defense played its best game of the season against Virginia Tech in Swinney’s eyes, but the offense could have looked sharper. Specifically, Clemson’s 6 of 16 mark on third down was lower than Swinney would have liked.

“We had three drops and then a couple throws that we just missed,” he said of the offense. “A couple touchdown opportunities we didn’t take advantage of. We jumped offsides a couple times … We’ve been a really good third-down team. We probably should have been 8 or 9 of 16 on third down. We (also) did have three sacks.

“I do think we did some good things, just missed some opportunities with some drops and then jumping offsides on third and 1 on the goal line was another one.”

Injury-wise, Swinney said the Tigers came through the Virginia Tech game in a solid position, and said the only player he is not sure about being able to practice Monday is freshman defensive end Justin Foster (ankle). To Clemson’s advantage, cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who went through concussion protocol after the Boston College game, was cleared to play but then did not against the Hokies, is healthy, Swinney said.

“He’s good — ready to go and available to play. We were going to try to limit him, and if we didn’t have to play him, not play him,” Swinney said. “We just really were in a good rhythm, guys were playing well and didn’t have to play him, which was good. He was available and ready to go.”

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

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