CLEMSON, SC- After a disappointing loss last weekend against rival South Carolina, offensive lineman Landon Walker feels like his team has refocused and has their eyes on the prize, in this case it’s the ACC Championship trophy and representing the ACC in the Orange Bowl on January 4th.
“We’ve fallen off a little bit these past few games but I think that everyone’s mental state and it being a post season game, that can refocus and reform this team back to what we were in the first of the year.”
The Tigers have lost 3 of their last 4 contests, and the high speed, spread offense has sputtered to a halt, what has gone wrong?
“I think we got the run game going early in the game against South Carolina but weren’t able to maintain that,” Walker said. “It’s the ups and downs of the game, when we were put in situations where we had to do things like throw the ball, we didn’t protect him as well as we could have from the left side, and you see that happen when everyone’s not healthy. But I don’t believe we need to make any drastic changes, I think the mental state of the team just needs to get good for the VA Tech game.”
The coaches have said every week that practices have gone well for the Tigers but they haven’t been able to carry this momentum over to game day, something that Walker sees as something they can easily correct this week.
“Practice has been fine the past few weeks, we’ve had positive practices,” Walker said. “The last two Saturdays haven’t been as we hoped them to be. But you can change that kind of thing, when you give up turnovers like we did against NC State and on Saturday when we just couldn’t get going, we were playing catch up the whole game, we need to capitalize on our drives. It’s momentum, something we’ve been playing against these past few weeks, especially on the road. Momentum is something you can’t grab, football is a game of emotion and momentum and emotion comes into play when you have momentum, it’s been our enemy the past few weeks.”
When the Tigers’ played the Hokies early in the season, the Tigers’ came away with a 23-3 victory, something that Walker believes he and his teammates can look back on and take something positive away from it looking forward to this Saturday’s contest.
“When you look at the film and see how we were able to run the ball, throw the ball on them and just be successful against this team,” Walker said. “I think that’s the attitude we have to take into this weekend that we’ve beaten them by 20 before, what will stop us now? That’s going to be huge for our defense if they can stop them like they did in Blacksburg.”
Walker was one of the few players that were on the Clemson team in 2009 when they competed for the ACC Championship in Tampa and lost in the last minute of the game, something that he and his fellow teammates can learn a lot from.
“It was a crappy feeling losing but at the same time offensively we played our tails off, scoring points and running the ball,” Walker said. “If we can run the ball and throw the ball and be successful we can beat anybody. We’ve got to get momentum when we have the opportunity, create turnovers and just hold onto the ball and score when we have the opportunity.”
Walker sees no need to motivate his teammates for this particular matchup as they’re playing for everything this weekend and his teammates are well aware of that.
“You don’t need to motivate players for the ACC Championship,” Walker said. “This is what we’ve been working for all year, all summer and spring. It’s what it’s all about, the fun part of football. This is what we’ve worked all year for and there’s nothing to be negative about. The South Carolina game is a huge game but you can’t dwell on it, especially knowing that you have a Championship game to play the next week.”
According to Walker, inconsistency has been the problem with the running game the past few weeks.
“We’ve created some successful runs but we’ve got to become more consistent,” Walker said. “The inconsistency has been our downfall and if we can open up more holes, early and late in the game we can be successful against anyone. If we come into this game, totally focused on what we have to do to run the ball, if you can run the ball the passing will open up.”
As for the offensive line and the pressure that opposing teams have been able to get on quarterback Tajh Boyd over the past few weeks, Walker is confident that Tajh has complete confidence in his line.
“Tajh is uncomfortable because he’s been taking more hits than he’s used to,” Walker said. “He hasn’t been as well protected as we’d like, with Philip getting hurt there’s been problems with protecting him and that’s common. Whether he’s being sacked or hit, he’s uncomfortable in the pocket and we saw that Saturday when he ran out of the pocket when he didn’t need to. That’s something we’ll have to focus on this week, make sure he’s comfortable back there and is able to find who he needs to find down field.”
As for playing in a neutral site for the ACC Championship game, Walker hopes this plays to the Tigers’ advantage.
“Well all of our losses have been on the road, and I don’t think crowd noise has played much of a factor in our losses but playing at a neutral site with 50% our fans and 50% theirs, it shouldn’t be a factor at all,” Walker said. “We haven’t played at a neutral site all year so hopefully it’ll work to our favor Saturday and our fans will show up be as loud as you can be.”