Clemson fans are spoiled. Spoiled rotten. And honestly, I’m tired of it.
I didn’t want to do this but they made me.
First and foremost, major respect and kudos to Dino Babers and Syracuse. I’ve always liked him and respected Babers as a coach. His team could have easily laid down once they fell into a 17-0 hole yesterday. But they never quit fighting and came one play away from taking the lead in the second half Saturday.
I’m not even 30 years old and I can VIVIDLY remember because really wasn’t that long ago when inferior Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest squads would face off against Clemson. The Tigers would be sloppy and just look ill prepared. The coaching was different, the talent gap was less noticeable. Clemson was just a good program, not yet a great one. And they couldn’t overcome those bad games and find ways to win in spite of everything going on.
In the past, they wouldn’t have survived the Orange, again. There’s no doubt in my mind if that game was played in 2010 or prior, the Tigers probably lose. But that has changed as Swinney has developed into an elite head coach. Sure, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have both snuck one in on the Tigers but generally as of late, Clemson has always found a way to pull out these games.
That is something that wasn’t always the case. Appreciate that.
Now back to Saturday..
Sure, Clemson did not play up to standard and it was the sloppiest game collectively they’ve played in quite some time. YET THEY STILL MANAGED TO DEFEAT A CONFERENCE FOE BY 26 POINTS. That was probably a C minus performance Saturday yet it was still significantly better than the opponent when it mattered most. Visit ESPN’s college football scoreboard. I promise it won’t take long to find a team that can only WISH they had *only* won by 26.
The Tigers have become a victim of their own success and now a standard has been set. Clemson fans and other spectators across the land expect Clemson to dominate from start to finish in nearly all of it’s games.
And they should have on Saturday when you look at the matchup on paper. But they didn’t. And that is okay. Clemson is elite, but not perfect or invincible. Sometimes you gotta win ugly. “on paper” has never won a football game and it never will.
Unlike the days of Clemson football I grew up on, the Tigers persevered. They were down starters at corner back, defensive line and linebacker. Travis Etienne got a little roughed up during the game and fumbled again. Trevor Lawrence was off on his accuracy and threw his first career pick six, offensive line wasn’t exactly pushing Syracuse around, had a snap fly over Lawrence’s head, the wide outs weren’t getting a bunch of separation. There was numerous things that the old Clemson wouldn’t have been able to overcome. Clemson finally had a true test of mettle and how well they could stay composed during adversity.
As Swinney said: “We did some bad things on both sides (of the ball) but we also responded on both sides.”
At the end of the day, it was another convincing win and gives the Tigers 26 straight wins in Death Valley. Twenty-six. It was the sixth straight season a team has started 6-0 on the year which is the longest active streak.
It’s hard to win and its even harder to keep winning. Everyone wants to knock off Clemson and the Tigers know they have a target on their back. Essentially Clemson is the biggest game on nearly all of it’s opponents’ schedules for the last several years.
The Tigers have been known to have one of these sloppy games every season in this “Championship Era”. But this program has learned how to take a few shots to the chin but get off the mat and dominate when it matters most.
Syracuse is a really bad team but they are well coached and played with some grit on Saturday. They were down to an alarming number of players healthy and available to play but they fought with a champion’s heart Saturday. They are the modern day Maryland for Clemson.
But now the Tigers know how to grind out those sloppy games for a win. And if you can’t calm down and find the beauty and positives from that performance–especially after the Orange drew within 27-21 midway through the third quarter–I don’t know what to tell ya.
The Tigers did what great programs do. They ripped off the rear view mirror and kept playing. Eventually if you bring the right energy, focus and execution, things will fall into place.
Clemson is on an incredible run but it won’t last forever. Nothing ever does. There will be rough years again down the road maybe not under Swinney but it’s going to happen. Enjoy these 26-point wins, there WILL be a day that you wish this was your team’s “problem”— not scoring 6-10 points on the road against an inferior team and losing. Cause I remember those type of games for Clemson.
Tiger fans need to sit back and think about what this program looked like 10-15 years ago. Heck, even five years ago. It’s grown so much. Clemson fans have grown to take wins for granted. That’s a dangerous mindset and outlook.
Sometimes you’re just going to have a bad game. It happens. But going crazy on social media attacking KIDS and coaches throughout the game and afterwards for doing what they see as best (with a record to prove so) is outrageous.
Nobody hates those sloppy games more than the actual players and coaches. So being upset over a bad game in which Clemson was in control probably 75-85% of the game and won by 26 is just….stupid. How about you pull up some old games from the early 2000’s? Watch a few of those Maryland games. Remember the loss to USF in the Meinke Car Care Bowl. Think about that loss to Duke on the road after upsetting Miami the week prior. Pull up highlights from those head scratching losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech through the years.
True fans with the track record to prove it know exactly which games and years I’m referring to.
Take a step back and you MIGHT gain a better perspective and appreciation for what happened Saturday. Because despite all the bad, there was some good. And enough good to seize an opportunity to shift the momentum and run away with it.
Clemson scored when it absolutely needed it and came up with multiple turnovers and stops when they needed to make a play. The secondary had a few busted plays but also racked up three more interceptions in the win over the Orange.
It might not have been “fun” to watch and there is plenty to clean up moving forward but this is a game where Clemson will get better. It’s hard to really get better after defeating someone 73-7.
But a teachable moment like Saturday will allow the Tigers to focus on the negatives and not allow them to be a factor next week or the next week. It in fact could be just what Clemson needs heading into the make-or-break portion of the schedule with Boston College at home and back-to-back trips to Notre Dame and Florida State. All three of those teams could be more equipped talent wise to make a game like Saturday much more dangerous for the Tigers.
In closing, just breathe. Clemson is 6-0 and won a game by 26 points. Are there some concerns with how they played Saturday? Absolutely. But the next time you want to complain about a 26-point win, how about you don’t instead? Because chances are you’re going to sound ridiculous.
Have a blessed Sunday.