Whenever an especially ugly reality raises its hand and SMACKS me upside the head, I become a creature of habit: I lapse into a catatonick numbness, for a spell. Figure the shit out. Then– in the now infamous words of Patti O’Furniture from my Bigfoot Movie– realize it’s time to“SNAP–OUT OF IT, MARY!” Last Saturday night in Columbia, my Clemson Tigers had not yet shaken off that Wolfpack Juju. But DAMN if they didn’t last night.
While an 8-0 start, followed by a 1-3 finish, epitomized the new college football term of “a Clemsoning,” there was redemption waiting in Charlotte — a chance for the Tigers to win their first ACC championship in 20 years. About 75 percent of people on ESPN.com picked the opponent, Virginia Tech. So did the pundits.(not me tho, check my facebook post!) But for the most part, It was literally “the night the lights went out in Clemson.” When the game was all over, though, it was Clemson with a 38-10 victory and its ticket punched to the Orange Bowl.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that I will be taking my Clemson talents to South Beach, baby,” Tigers head coach Swinney said. “I have wanted to say that. We’re excited. Man, it’s just a great time. We are awfully excited about going to Miami. We played like a champion today.”
Quarterback Tajh Boyd, named the MVP of the game, said the team’s performance was a matter of refocusing and trusting in themselves.
“Somewhere you’ve just got to dig deep inside yourself, and work through things,” he said. “Obviously, you do get a sense of complacency, and if you let it, if you let the outside world influence how you carry yourself and how you act. I mean, that’s just one of the life lessons learned. I feel like that’s one of the things that happened, and it happened for a reason, to let you know that all you can really do is believe in yourself and your family, which is my teammates. I’m just proud to be here.”
Boyd connected on 20 of his 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. But that wouldn’t have been possible without the Tigers rediscovering their running attack, with Andre Ellington toting the rock 20 times for 125 yards.
“I’m proud of Andre Ellington. He was big time player tonight on a big stage,” Swinney said. “He was one of the big keys in the game for us because we were able to run the football.”
This time, though, Clemson didn’t have to put up gaudy numbers in a second-half comeback. The defense put on an exceptional display, limiting conference player of the year — Virginia Tech running back David Wilson — to 32 yards on 11 carries.
“Part of the reason we stopped running the ball is because I guess the coaches thought it was unsuccessful the times we did try,” Wilson said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to get your guys going. The offensive line, gotta get them moving and get your running back into the flow of the game. When you see that happening, you can’t just exclude them.”
Swinney said after the game that if the team could put together a complete game on offense, defense and special teams, Clemson could beat anyone. Last night they did just that. Now, the Tigers will be taking that lesson to the BCS. “C.U. in Miami, Baby!”
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr, an Attorney licensed to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia. He received his BA in 1985 from Clemson University and his JD in 1988 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.