‘Never lost the fight’: Swinney becomes Clemson’s all-time winningest coach 

It was a week of highs and lows for Dabo Swinney. 

On Monday, Swinney took phone calls during his weekly show “Tiger Calls,” and a caller named Tyler from Spartanburg, South Carolina, brought up the tumultuous moments from Clemson’s season to that point. 

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Tyler from Spartanburg mentioned Swinney’s salary and the 4-4 record the Tigers had, and Swinney responded for more than five minutes in a passionate answer

Five days later, Swinney and Clemson knocked off No. 15 Notre Dame 31-23, and the victory gave Swinney No. 166 in his career, moving past Frank Howard and becoming the all-time leader in Tigers program history. 

“The credit goes to the player and all these coaches,” Swinney said. “We’ve had some amazing, amazing players, and man, they’re all a part of that. It was pretty cool looking at my phone coming up here. I’m going to be sending text messages back for about three days.” 

Clemson captured the win in convincing fashion, trailing only after the opening 43-yard field goal kicked by Fighting Irish kicker Spencer Shrader. The Tigers scored touchdowns on two of their first five drives and led by as many as 18 points. 

The sting of Monday’s “Tiger Calls” carried over onto the Clemson roster, as the Tigers felt what their head coach had said and believed. Tigers running back Phil Mafah, who had 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame, said he took it personally and that Clemson “had to bring our all today.” 

“We definitely did have a chip on our shoulder just knowing that, especially me, knowing that this was the game that he needed for his 166th win, and I really wanted that for him,” Mafah said. “I know all the guys did so we just had to get it done and find a way.” 

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Tigers quarterback Cade Klubnik has embraced the challenges that this season has presented to Clemson. From the loss to Duke in the season-opener to a two-game losing streak snapped on Saturday, Clemson’s quarterback has seen it all. 

Klubnik said the postgame embrace with Swinney “was awesome,” and then he reflected on the “wild” season it has been for Clemson. 

“It’s been such a strange year, and the whole time we never lost faith of who we are and the identity within this team,” Klubnik said. “We had chapel last night, and the guy who spoke to us, he spoke on keeping our faith and that some people and some things in life will try to steal that from you. Whether it’s losses, people’s opinions, things that people can say, tragedy can happen, but one thing we haven’t done once is lose our faith in this team and to the man above. So just so proud of these guys, the way we battled today.” 

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Swinney has been head coach at Clemson since 2009, and in that time he’s compiled a 166-43 record and 11 bowl game wins. 

The 2023 season hasn’t gone the way Swinney and the Tigers envisioned, but for one day on Saturday, they felt on top of the college football world. 

“Just a great day, a great, great, great, great day, and I’m just happy for our fans,” Swinney said. “I’m happy for our team because these guys, like I said, hadn’t had a lot go their way this year, but they have never lost the fight.”