Following Clemson’s stunning 43-42 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Tigers did not know what to do.
For the first time since October 19, 2013, they lost a game at home. It was also their first loss in the regular season since November 15, 2014.
It was such a rare occurrence Clemson’s video coordinator, who makes the team’s highlight video for the Friday night before each game, was confused about what he should do because the team does not do a highlight video after a loss.
“He went 27 straight weeks having to make one,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said on Sunday during his weekly teleconference with the media. “We lost in the national championship game, but we went through the spring and fall camp so we had a motivational video to start the season, but he said he has never been a part of something like that.”
Swinney said just eight players on the team had experienced a loss in Death Valley so they didn’t know they still had to stay out on the field and celebrate the alma mater with the band and alumni. But it’s been so long since they lost, Swinney forgot to remind them and most of the team was not out there.
He said that is on him because he has to make sure they understand they have to show class in winning, too, but he can’t fault them because he did not tell them.
“That’s something I just did not think about,” Swinney said. “I don’t usually think about losing and I’m not going to, but I have to coach them up on that.”
The Tigers’ coach said Saturday night definitely had a different feeling in Clemson, one he and the team has not experienced in a while.
“Everybody on this team hates to lose. We really did not know what to do last night. I’m glad it is not a habit around here and is not going to become one,” Swinney said.
Swinney said there is a silver lining in the loss to Pitt, compared to the last game they loss, which was in the national championship game to Alabama.
“The last time we lost a game we had to wait nine months to play again. That’s the one thing I remember. We don’t have to wait nine months to play, and not only do we get to play, but we get a chance to line up and play for our division title,” he said.
Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC) will play at Wake Forest next Saturday with an opportunity to win the ACC’s Atlantic for a second straight week. The ACC announced on Sunday the game will be a 7 p.m. kick and will be televised by ESPN.
With a win, the Tigers will clinch a berth in next month’s ACC Championship Game in Orlando, Florida.
“The other thing is we have a good football team. We had a bad day (against Pitt), but we have not had a bad year. There are definitely some things we can correct, but we have a really good football team,” Swinney said. “It’s no different than if we are 10-0. Just because we are 9-1 does not change anything about our team.”
Thanks to losses by Michigan and Washington on Saturday, Clemson also controls its own destiny in terms of making the College Football Playoff. The margin of error is smaller, but it is still in control nonetheless.
“We have a tough race that we are in the middle of, and this is definitely a little setback, but again, it is an opportunity for us to grow from it and that is what we are going to do. We are going to get our mind right and flush it and move on and see if we can find a way to win our division this week. There is a lot out there.”
Dropping in the polls. With Saturday’s loss to Pitt, the Tigers dropped to No. 5 in both the Amway Coaches Poll and The Associated Press Top 25. Clemson is behind Louisville, who is No. 3 in both polls.
Pagano out indefinitely. Swinney said he was not sure when defensive tackle Scott Pagano will return after he suffered an injury to the fourth metatarsal in his foot. It will not require surgery.
“I am not sure when he will be back. He will definitely be back for the bowl game. I am not sure if he will have a chance for the ACC Championship,” Swinney said.
Hyatt has a sprain. Starting left tackle Mitch Hyatt sprained his foot in Saturday’s loss after someone stepped on it early. He did not return.
“Somehow he got stepped on and they came down on the back of his leg and he kind of sprained his foot. He actually looked pretty good today,” Swinney said. “Danny (Poole) was pretty optimistic, but we will reevaluate him in the morning.”
It was a bad day for Hyatt. Earlier in the day he was late for the special teams meeting and by rule, he can’t start the game.
Watson is sore. Deshaun Watson set all kinds of records in the Pitt game in terms of passes thrown, completions, yards and total yards. In all he threw 70 passes, while completing 52 of them for 580 yards. The 580 yards is a Clemson and ACC record, while his 588 total yards is a Clemson record for total yards in a game.
Remember Watson was coming off a shoulder injury in which he bruised his shoulder against Syracuse the week before and did not play in the second half.
“He’s sore. You throw 70 passes (laughing). He is good. I was messing with him today. He was in good spirits,” Swinney said. “Obviously, he is disappointed like everyone else. We are not used to losing around here, especially that guy.
“He had a couple of plays he would like to have back but man he made a lot of great plays.”
Watson finished the game with three touchdown and three interceptions. Two of his three interceptions where in the Pitt end zone or at the goal line.
Jake Fruhmorgen update. Swinney said he will meet with the right tackle on Monday. Fruhmorgen was not with the team on Saturday because of personal reasons. It was the second straight game he missed. He also missed the Syracuse game with a shoulder injury, which he suffered at Florida State the week before.
Swinney isn’t sure when Fruhmorgen will come back to the team, “it is really up to his family on when he will be back.”
Players of the week. Mike Williams (offense), Dorian O’Daniel (defense) and Dexter Lawrence (special teams) were named Clemson’s Players of the Week for the Pitt game by the coaching staff.
Williams caught a career-high 15 passes for a career-high 202 yards and one touchdown in the loss. O’Daniel had nine tackles and a sack on defense. Lawrence blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the first half.