As fourth-ranked Clemson was able to put Florida State away 31-14 in Death Valley on Saturday, the Tigers clinched their third consecutive Atlantic division and booked a trip to next month’s ACC Championship game in Charlotte.
Following the game, the media spoke to head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Kelly Bryant, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) knew it was going to be a tough night in facing rival in Florida State (3-6, 3-5 ACC). But with help from the crowd and an unceasing defensive unit, the Tigers were able to put the Seminoles away.
“What a ball game,” Swinney said. “We all knew what was at stake coming into this game. When you can run the ball and the opposing team can’t run the ball, usually good things happen.
“We had to go on the road at some tough places. I don’t think many people picked us to win the ACC this year. We had so many question marks coming into the season and I am just really proud of our staff and team.”
Like Swinney said, a big accomplishment is doing what others say you cannot. For Bryant and the Tigers, making it this far is something of sweet revenge.
“I’m excited to be going to a third straight ACC championship game,” Bryant said. “Going into the season not many people picked us to be here but we believed in ourselves and knew what we could do.”
Since the start of the game, Clemson’s defense was relentless. At the end of the night, the Seminoles were held to just 21 yards rushing and 229 yards of total offense. Venables saw the benefits reaped from practicing and preparing like a champion.
“I thought it was good not to let them get in an early rhythm,” Venables said. “We did some things that kind of let them hang around, but I love the determination, the grit, and their ability to slam the door and come up with some big stops and a turnover. That’s what a champion does.”
Part of the Tigers’ victory on Saturday night was thanks to many guys that stepped up. Wilkins said seeing guys like Niles Pickney, Chad Smith, JD Davis and Albert Huggins step up is huge, especially in this critical time of the season.
“That’s big, building that depth and trust in or guys,” Wilkins said. “I have one hundred percent confidence and faith in everyone that’s going to go in because I know how we prepare. The guys who have less experience are itching to get a chance for playing time to show what they got. It’s great to see guys get that experience in critical situations.”