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Syracuse Football: Scott Shafer Shares Thoughts on Clemson, Injuries and Offensive Struggles

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Like he does every week, Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer spoke to the media on the ACC Coaches Teleconference; what did he have to share this time around?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, the ACC Coaches Teleconference gives us a glimpse into what's on each of the conference coaches' minds prior to gameday. This week, we got plenty from Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer with regards to injuries, the upcoming matchup with Clemson and offensive struggles (amongst other things). Take a look below for all of his responses:

"We're looking forward to finishing up our preparation this week in anticipation of going down to Death Valley and playing in an unbelievable venue..."

Happy, everyone?

On what he's seeing from Clemson's offense these past couple weeks, and how Syracuse can take advantage of that group's struggles:

"Well, I think, first off, I think Cole Stoudt is finding his way with the offense. He's got a lot of great tools around him, and I think the one thing they've shown is they've gutted through some learning experiences and found ways to win. Obviously, any time you have an injured player -- we've gone through the same thing playing a guy that is now our third -- was our third quarterback.

So I think you have to get a feel for who he is and where you're going to take your offense. The thing, I think, probably that those two schools you mentioned did a good job is they just played good, sound defense and didn't try to get too innovative, and tried to force Stoudt and the offense to run their offense. One thing you know is you know Chad Morris will do a great job every week increasing the innovation and the opportunity for production. He does a great job -- excuse me. Chad Morris does a great job of giving those talented players opportunities to showcase their skill sets in space as well as getting down the field with them.

You can see they're just a couple feet away from making big plays down the field. Coach Morris will have them ready to go, and they'll continue to get better."

Of course he was asked about this:

"That's just so water over the dam. To get competitive in a competitive environment, I didn't do a good job of controlling my emotions in that. I've got all the respect in the world for Dabo, and we've since laughed about it. I just look forward to coming down to Death Valley and really experiencing that venue. Dabo is a great football coach. He's got excellent football coaches under him with Brent Venables. You just go compete, but all that's way over the dam, I guess you would say."

Sean's reaction is probably very similar to yours:

Regarding A.J. Long's progress, and his first win:

"Yeah, he did a nice job. I thought he did a good job against Florida State, and he did a very good job against Wake Forest. I know he wishes he could have a couple reads back, but I think he was 22 of 32 maybe. So pretty good day. Pleased with the way he competes, and he's learning. He's learning on the run. Coach Lester is trying to put him in situations where he can make plays and not be forced to do some things that are maybe in the higher learning curve. So he's doing a good job for us."

On how the defense has totally bailed out this Syracuse offense this season:

"The whole goal is to get them under what they can score. Any time you can go out and have a good performance against Wake, you feel good about it. But let's also stay in the real world, understanding Wake has really struggled on offense this year. As much as I was pleased with that performance, we also have to look at it in relative terms, we also have to understand that this week going into Clemson will be a great challenge for our kids with all the skill they have on offense at Clemson and a very talented front offensive line. It's going to be a hell of a battle for us to try to earn a little bit of respect from a great team. So very pleased with the performance, but we're now moved on from there and getting ready to focus in on this next game down at Clemson."

Addressing the persistent red zone struggles and how he's feeling about them:

"It's not frustration, acceptance, no not that way. It's just go to work. You're trying to come up with more touchdowns rather than field goals. From a scoring point of view, we've actually scored more than 80 some percent when we get in the red zone. We just want to turn them into touchdowns now. So you go to work, put your heads down, go diligent about the process, and you move forward. You try to turn that tide the second half of the season.

So I think, if you sit there and you overthink things that are uncontrollable, that's when you get in trouble, and then you trade anxiety. We'd rather be stressed about practicing the things that we can and getting better at them and going to work on that stress as opposed to having some sort of mental anxiety that you have no control over. So go to work and just keep pounding until you get it to the point where you feel good that you're turning field goal opportunities into touchdowns. Simple as that."

I'll leave this here: I think right now you guys are third to last in the FBS in touchdown percentages in the red zone. Do you think you can make a Bowl game without that improving?

"That's not a very good question. You make a Bowl game if you win enough games, and that's what we're going to bust our ass to do."

... the Ass-Bustin' Syracuse Orange are comin' for ya, DABO!!!

Have to talk about that atmosphere at Clemson:

"...The preparation is no different than when we're getting ready to go to a lot of places, understanding that this might be the most difficult place to play in the country. So we're going to try to do the best we can in our preparation for it, but you can never emulate that until you go to that place and play in it.

It will be exciting for our kids. It will also be a great challenge with all those great players they have at Clemson, and the fan base is awesome down there. I'm excited to go visit Death Valley myself and see if we can go in there and just work as hard as we can to get after a great Clemson team.

We know we've got a very difficult battle on our hands, and it will be a neat environment for us. With it being their homecoming, I'm sure it will be even more lively. It's one of those experiences you look forward to as a coach and as players to going in there and playing in it that venue.

You can't emulate it. We try to do some crowd noise and practice that way, but until you get there, you really can't -- like you said, you really can't ever truly know what it's like until you get there. So we're going to hustle down there and go give it our best run. That's for sure."

On how this Syracuse team responds to change, and the amount they've had to deal with this season:

"I think they've done a great job with it, very proud of them. We're a tight-knit unit. Everyone understands that roles change, and you focus in on your responsibilities at hand. Very pleased with the staff. Very pleased with the players and looking forward to continuing this season out as a family."

How is Syracuse going to combat Clemson's dangerous defensive front?:

"They're unbelievable, as you know. When you play maybe one of the best talented fronts in the country, and really when I look at them, you can say they're one of the best fronts I've seen in a long time -- I'm talking years. I mean, this group is unbelievable. So for us, we're just going to go in there and give it our best shot, try to change some things up, and try not to get our quarterback killed. I mean, these guys are unbelievable up front.

You just try to change some things up on them a little bit, but understand that, when you have that many guys with that much ability, it's hard to slow those horses down. I think Coach Venables has done an unbelievable job. He's an extremely bright coach that's taken advantage of the talent, and he's got a great scheme. So it's difficult. So I think you try to change things up as best you can but also understand they're going to make plays. Great players make plays. You just want to try to minimalize how many of those are happening from series to series and play as hard as you can for as long as you can and try not to worry about anything but doing your job. That's the focus we'll have going into this one."

***

In conclusion:

  • Get better questions, ACC media
  • Death Valley is an imposing place
  • Syracuse knows how to deal with change
  • A.J. Long is doing a nice job
  • Water going over a dam appears to be a positive development, despite what you'd think
  • That red zone offense... still deplorable. Still something that needs to get fixed.
  • "Minimalize."