Through those first eight games, Clemson ranked 12th in the country in turnover margin and finished ranked No. 53. The penalty issue isn't so easily defined by statistics - Clemson finished the season ranked No. 10 in fewest per game - but the ones the Tigers incurred were costly and ill-timed.
"And that affects everything,'' Swinney said of the mistakes. "That affects your confidence and then you try to do too much, it affects momentum. And then [against Virginia Tech] we created three turnovers and did not have any. That's been the formula for us all year when we've been successful.''
Even in the win over Wake Forest, Clemson had to overcome a three-turnover deficit. In the three losses the difference was minus-seven. That's a minus-10 turnover ratio in those four games. In the other nine games Clemson's ratio was plus-12.
As for the reason for the difference in turnovers and penalties, Swinney pointed to youth. Clemson played 29 true or redshirt freshmen this season, tied with Indiana for most in the nation. When that group started 8-0 and got all of that acclaim, it was difficult to handle.
"I didn't think we handled success very well,'' Swinney said. "Part of that is just youth on your football team. Some of these guys hadn't been in that situation. You can tell them and tell them, but sometimes you just have to learn from experience.''
Holgorsen, meanwhile, just chalks up Clemson's brief struggles to the nature of the beast. The Tigers weren't the only team that had down moments this season. Include West Virginia among that bunch.
"They were real hot and won some close games. That's hard to maintain, as we saw this year not only with them, but with a whole bunch of other teams,'' Holgorsen said. "They hit a two- or three- game skid there, but because they're well-coached and have players that like to win, they were able to win the game at the end that counted.
"It's part of what college football is all about. For them to be able to regroup, kind of like we regrouped a month ago, is a tribute to the coaches and players.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.