When he came from the team hotel to be interviewed by Samantha Ponder as a part of ESPN’s College GameDay Show this past Saturday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was amazed by all the fans that were already in Clemson – 11 hours before the game kicked off.
“I mean the place was packed,” Swinney said. “There were people all over the campus.”
So on the way back to the hotel, Swinney decided to take a detour and thank some of the fans that were already in Clemson and were already tailgating.
Swinney asked the South Carolina State Trooper who was escorting him to pull over at a couple of random tailgates. The first group they came across was a group that had a big orange van in one of the parking lots by the stadium.
“These old boys were sitting out and had their chairs kicked backed, doors were open and they had a big screen TV. They are just sitting there and it’s like right at 9:45 or 10 o’clock in the morning and the trooper car pulls up and you know, they were all like drinking beer and I roll the window down and I was like, ‘Hey boys! Ya’ll ready to go?’ They looked at me like, ‘Coach Swinney!’”
Swinney got out of the car and said he wanted to make sure they were ready.
“I said, ‘Ya’ll drinking beer already?! It is going to be rockin’ in the Valley tonight!’ We had fun with that.”
After that Swinney went around to a couple of more tailgates and just kind of popped in on some people in the parking lot and took some pictures and then headed back to the hotel.
On the way back, Swinney noticed a couple with a nice tailgate under a tree and they had zero-gravity chairs they were laid back in so he pulled up to them and asked, “Can I get you anything? Can I do anything? This is the ultimate set up right here.
“So I laid in the zero-gravity chair and hung out with them for a minute.”
Swinney told the team about what he saw and what he experienced when he got back to the hotel.
“It was unbelievable. There was no telling how early those people were there setting up and all of that stuff. It was amazing just to be a part of it. That’s what makes Clemson special, it’s just the atmosphere. I don’t know how many people that were here, that were not in the stands,” Swinney said. “There was probably fifteen thousand plus that were just here tailgating and did not even come into the game. They were just having a big ole time.
“It is a unique and special place for sure.”
The atmosphere remained special when the game started as the crowd contributed to six Louisville penalties – five procedure penalties and one delay of game. The procedure penalty on fourth-and-seven from the Clemson nine-yard line with 40 seconds to play was the biggest of them all. It backed the Cardinals up five more yards. The Cardinals came up one yard short of converting the first down and Clemson took over on downs with 33 seconds to play.
“It was the highest-ranked win we have had here. It was a big doggone game,” Swinney said. “You could just feel the emotion that was in the crowd. The energy was powerful … Man was it special. It was a special environment to be a part of.”