CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney thought things couldn't have gone much better during the Tigers off week.
Swinney played a little touch football with his three sons, banged-up Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker got to heal his bruised ribs and the Tigers look like they've put their disappointing Auburn loss behind as they open Atlantic Coast Conference play against No. 16 Miami.
"I'm more encouraged than discouraged right now," Swinney said Tuesday.
Swinney said the team spent most of last week's practices correcting the mistakes that turned a potentially season-defining win into a disastrous, 27-24 overtime loss. The Tigers led 17-0 and had pushed around their Southeastern Conference opponents much of the opening half.
But then Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton took control. Newton threw two third-quarter touchdown passes to move Auburn in front 24-17 as Clemson's defense gave up several big plays.
Then in overtime, Tigers kicker Chandler Catanzaro had seemingly tied things when a false start penalty wiped out the field goal. Catanzaro missed the retry from further back.
"It was tough to deal with," left tackle Chris Hairston said. "But it was something where we learned what we needed to do to improve."
And that's what Clemson did.
Hairston said the Tigers had several offensive communication breakdowns that came from playing in a loud, frenzied environment that it worked on during the bye week. Timing issues, depth problems, even making sure players knew how to properly line up — it was all on the table to be worked on, Hairston said.
"We got a lot of things corrected that we needed to," he said. "We got a lot of things done."
About the only one who didn't put in that much work was Parker, Clemson's sophomore starter. Parker was drilled by a helmet to ribs and looked like he might have to be replaced. But Parker felt healthy enough to stay in and led the Tigers on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that tied the game.
Once back on campus, however, Swinney made sure Parker wouldn't have to do much more than watch backup Tajh Boyd and twirl a football every once in awhile.
Parker looked confident and strong at practice Monday, offensive coordinator Billy Napier said, and would be ready to face Miami.
"I felt good. I thought I threw the ball well, especially coming back," Parker said. "My arm actually feels really fresh."
Count on Miami to try and make Parker uncomfortable at Death Valley on Saturday. The Hurricanes (2-1) have already shown their resiliency, bouncing back from a 36-24 loss at Ohio State three weeks ago with last Thursday night's 31-3 victory at Pittsburgh.
Center Tyler Horn said playing in those environments will help the Hurricanes in their first trip to Memorial Stadium since 2005. The success against Pittsburgh won't matter as much if Miami can't successfully open ACC play at Clemson.
"We know it's conference season," Horn said. "These games are games we have to win if we want to get to where we want to go."
A season ago, Clemson used its bye week to overcome a 2-3 start and begin a six-game win streak to take the ACC Atlantic Division. Swinney says there wasn't as much soul searching this time following the Auburn defeat.
Still, though, Swinney sees a tight-knit team eager to show how good it can be.
"I do think we have the personnel and the chemistry on this team to really be a good football team," he said. "What we got to do know is try and create some momentum."