By Lee Lance.
There is never a good way to lose, and I am not one for moral victories, personally. I think moral victories, when called that and used that way, are for losers.
But I have to say, everyone should feel good about last night’s game. Not the loss, mind you, but the game.
Coach Swinney had been preaching it for weeks, and especially the days leading up to the game. I heard him say it myself, in fact. “This game is an opportunity…….a chance to go in their place and earn some respect”.
Coach Swinney continually reminded the team that this(Auburn) game won’t make their season or break their season, but what it could do is prove to everyone what they all already believed. Clemson can play tough, fundamental football, and can do it against anyone.
Now, I am not saying that Clemson is ready to face off against Alabama again by any means, but let’s be honest, they are FAR closer to ready than they were two years ago.
The goals for this team this weekend were easy. Give it everything you have, leave it all on the field, win the game, earn some respect. “We don’t have any respect yet” Coach Swinney told the team Friday. “You know why?” he asked them, “because we haven’t done a dang thing to earn it”.
Well, let me give you my opinion. The team didn’t earn the win in the end, it slipped right through their fingertips, literally. However, one goal was definitely reached, respect was earned. And why wouldn’t it have been?
How can you not respect a team that goes into a hostile environment, more than a touchdown the underdog, and takes the team they are facing behind the woodshed for 50 of the 60 minutes?
I don’t care what anyone says, not one person that isn’t on the team or coaching staff really expected Clemson to do that. Some may have predicted a win, but not one person expected it to be a beating.
A beating is what Auburn received for most of that game. There I go, sounding like I am preaching a moral victory speech, but that’s not my intention.
However, you simply can’t look past what we witnessed last night. This Tiger team is not the same old Tiger team of years past.
This team is not going to roll over and lay down for anyone. This team, in their first real game of the year, answered everyone’s questions and should have quieted and doubters, they can play.
The team showed what it’s offensive identity is going to be. This team showed that it can shut down the running game. Hallelujah!! This team showed that they are not going to be intimidated by any one team, or any one environment.
Best of all, this loss really didn’t hurt this team one bit as far as their goals. Like I said, one of the reasons the team wanted to win this game was to earn some respect. Well, they managed to do that even in defeat.
The season’s goals are still all on the table, every last one of them. If nothing else, that game last night makes me, personally, feel even better about the chances of a return to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game.
One last thing. I am already tired of hearing folks say how much harder it is to lose a game like last night’s than it is to just get beaten up and down the field. Let me give you my perspective. When you lose a game, for instance like the last Alabama game(you all know the one), you know before the game is over that you are going to lose. You have an hour or more to prepare for that.
On the flip side, when you lose a game in OT, especially when you were in control of that game early, it stings a lot all at once. Therefore, maybe initially it IS a little harder of a pill to swallow, but only temporarily.
After that Alabama loss, it was hard to say anything positive. It was hard to wear your Clemson shirt the next day, simply because you didn’t want to hear all the talking and whispering around you. However, after 24 hours to digest last night’s loss, and after watching it again on replay, I feel perfectly fine walking out of the house in Clemson gear, with my head held high, and say “yeah, we lost a tough fought game” and be speaking the truth.
Gone are the days that Clemson fans have to wonder if they will get toughness and effort for 60 minutes on Saturday, that question is answered, and you have Coach Dabo Swinney to thank for it. One other thing that we heard Coach preach to his team this weekend is this, a football player should NEVER have his toughness questioned after a a game, win or lose.
If anything at all is questioned from last night’s game, it sure as hell won’t be if this year’s Tiger team is tough.