Four times this year, No. 3 Clemson has found a way to win close games. The Tigers hung on and beat Auburn and Troy by six points each to start the season, and then used a Marcus Edmond tackle one-yard short of the first down to outlast Louisville in a thriller in Death Valley, and then last week NC State kicker Kyle Bambard gave the Tigers renewed life when he missed a 33-yard field goal that would have won the game for his team as time in regulation expired.
That’s four games, Clemson found a way to win, when it easily could have lost.
“You can’t make situations like that up whether it is Louisville, Auburn, North Carolina State. Some people say it is luck, we say it is hard work,” Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said.
Luck or not, the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) have found ways to win and are still where they want to be heading into next week’s ACC Showdown at No. 15 Florida State, undefeated and still playing for ACC and National Championships.
However, Clemson has some work to do if it wants to stay undefeated. Turnovers have been the biggest issue as of late. The Tigers have turned the football 10 times in the last three games, including five against Louisville and four against the Wolfpack.
Clemson ranks 122 out of 128 FBS teams with 16 turnovers.
“It’s not really frustrating. That is what teammates are for,” O’Daniel said. “You have to serve your teammate, serve the offense, and our team is built for situations like that and games like that so if anything it is just another chance to go out there prove the talent of our defense and our relentlessness and the pride we take in our defense.”
Knowing a loss to NC State could have cost them their College Football Playoff opportunity, O’Daniel said the team remained calm even when Bambard was lining up for the game-winning field goal attempt.
“We knew we had a lot at stake. We weren’t going to let our playoff opportunity be affected by a team we knew we could beat,” he said.
But they almost did. Fortunately for the Tigers’ Bambard’s kick sailed right as time expired in regulation, sending the game into overtime. In the extra session, Clemson got a 10-yard Deshaun Watson to Artavis Scott touchdown pass, and then on State’s only possession, defensive back Marcus Edmond ended the game with an interception in the end zone.
“We know how to finish and finishing allows us to win and that comes from the offseason,” O’Daniel said. “Since last season (Dabo) Swinney’s message has been finish with no regrets and I think this team has really bought into that with our practices, workouts and how we practice. Everyone knows, especially with that loss to Alabama in the National Championship, we know just how critical finishing is.
“We play until we win or the game is over.”
Since 2011, Clemson is 15-2 in games decided by seven points or less.
“I know we are built for situations like that. We are built to win. We are built to last. It is just reassurance,” O’Daniel said.