Heading into last week’s loss to Syracuse, No. 7 Clemson had gone from the start of fall camp on Aug. 3 through the first six weeks of the season without much of a break.
During that time, the Tigers played Auburn in a slugfest. Went to Louisville and played an emotionally charged up game against the Cardinals. Two weeks later, they were in Blacksburg battling a now 5-1 Virginia Tech team. In between they played two physical games against Boston College and Wake Forest.
Clemson also had its starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant, injured in the Wake Forest game and then again against Syracuse. In both games he missed most, if not all, of the second half.
Does all of this explain why the Tigers fell to a Syracuse team that came into the game 3-3, including a loss to Middle Tennessee at home?
“You are not going to get any excuses from me,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We got our butts kicked and we deserved it and we earned it.”
Swinney says Syracuse deserved all the credit for what happened in the Carrier Dome last Friday night.
“Let’s just compliment Syracuse,” he said. “There are no excuses. There are none on this end here. They had the same opportunity we did. They just outcoached us and outplayed us. They earned it and we earned our butt whopping so there is no excuses.”
Now the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) are trying to pick the pieces and see if they can go on a similar run like they did last year. Following its loss to Pitt in 2016, Clemson went on to whip Wake Forest and South Carolina to close the regular season and then took care of business against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.
In the College Football Playoff, Ohio State did not know what hit them as the Tigers stunned everyone with a 31-0 shutout of the Buckeyes. A week later, they rallied from two scores down twice to hand Alabama head coach Nick Saban his first loss in a national championship game.
“We had the same feeling (after Pitt loss),” Swinney said. “We were all sick to our stomach, but we went on and won the next one and we kind of kept going from there. This team has the same opportunity. Whether or not they will respond that way and finish that way, I don’t know. We are going to find out, I know that.
“There are certainly a lot of opportunities for this football team, this year and this journey. We will see what we are made of. That is why you play all twelve of them and at the end of the year you kind of see who is what. Right now, we are just a team that is 6-1 and is trying to get to 7-1.”