As No. 4 Clemson gets set to travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina Friday afternoon for Saturday’s 7 p.m. kick at Wake Forest, there will be a different attitude on the bus as opposed to what the players and coaches were feeling this time last week.
For the first time in two years, the Tigers (9-1, 6-1 ACC) will play a regular season football game following a loss. After coming close to losing in games against Auburn, Troy, Louisville, NC State and Florida State—games all decided by six points or less—Clemson finally failed at coming back and stealing victory out of the jaws of defeat.
“It is going to motivate us, but at the same time we are still going to have the same mindset to go out there execute, dominate and try to be the best we can be,” Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said. “The standard is to be the best so the mindset is not going to change for this football team.”
But the mindset has already changed on how people—fans and media—perceive the 2016 football team at Clemson. Expectations were so high for this team, and for Watson himself, they are almost too much to live up, too.
Last week, in a one-point loss to Pitt, the pressure on the players and the coaches finally caught up with them. The defense had its worst game of the year by far. The coaching staff made some calls they would love to do over and the offense turned the football over three times, two at or in the Pitt end zone.
Watson says they have been hearing what everyone has been saying about them. He gets it. That’s the way it is when so much is expected out of you.
“Just people in general just talking, saying we are not as good as we think we are. You see it all the time. It’s not just Clemson but for all the other teams, too,” he said. “Each team is dealing with adversity and criticism because people have their own bias opinions on who they like and who they want to pull for.”
Watson, who leads the ACC in passing yards and is second in passing touchdowns, tries not to let all those outside influences get to him, but he and his teammates hear it all the time.
“No, I’m fine. Like I said before, that stuff does not really bother me. I just do what I do and control what I can control. Regardless of … You know. I don’t really care for all the love and all that stuff. I understand that people are going to love you and people are going to hate you. That’s just the way of life.”