By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It is quite funny that a facility named for a HVAC manufacturer does not have any air conditioning, but that’s the way the folks at Syracuse like it in the Carrier Dome, especially when the third-ranked team in the country is coming to town.
The Orange will open its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference this Saturday when third-ranked Clemson heads to Syracuse for a 3:30 p.m. start.
“The dome is like 73 (degrees) with a slight wind out of the northwest,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. “The Carrier Dome has no AC. Everybody tells me they shut all the fans off and get everybody in there. It’s stuffy and all that.
“But we are from Clemson. If any of you have been around here in August, we get some of that hot stuff in practice around here. Our indoor facility does not have any air and it can get a little stuffy in there, too. So we will practice in there all week and crank it up and make it as hot as we can. It should not be a factor.”
Playing on the road has not been a factor for the Clemson program as of late. The Tigers were 3-1 on the road last season and opened up this year’s road slate with a 26-14 victory at NC State on Sept. 19.
Winning road games has been something the Tigers have improved on during Swinney’s tenure. In 2008, when he was the interim head coach, Clemson was 2-1 in road games. In fact, his first victory as a head coach was a, 27-21, victory at Boston College.
The Tigers stumbled for a few years after that, posting 2-3 marks in 2009 and 2011, while they were only 1-4 in road games in 2010. But Clemson’s approach for road games changed last season and the Tigers responded with dominating wins at Boston College, at Wake Forest and at Duke.
“We just have to be Clemson and go up there and play hard,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said.
The way the Tigers have played on the road recently is a sign of the maturity they have made under Swinney’s leadership, especially from the juniors and seniors on the squad. After starting the season 8-0 in 2011, Clemson stumbled down the stretch which included road losses to Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina. None of the three games were even close.
Swinney indicated the failure in those games had to do more with his team’s approach than what opposing teams were doing. The Tigers just did not do the little things right, like taking care of the football, staying disciplined and playing smart.
“It about not allowing Clemson to beat us,” he said. “When we beat Clemson, then we give ourselves a chance to win the game. That’s all you want.”
Playing with that mentality, Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) has embraced playing on the road. Quarterback Tajh Boyd said a few weeks back that he loves to hear other fans get on to him because it makes it that much sweeter when he walks off the field with a victory.
His head coach said he always had fun on road games because of all the different things the hometown fans would say or do.
“I loved it,” Swinney said. “I love the hostility of it, especially growing up in the SEC. I loved to go to Baton Rouge (La.) and see Grandmas flipping you the finger as we are riding on the bus. And others would pull their shirts up.
“People would talk bad about you and used to call me Skinny Swinney. I loved that. I thought that was great. That used to be a lot of fun to be a part of. I embraced that.”
Now he has his team embracing it and more importantly he makes sure they respect what they are going to go try and do. He mentioned that Syracuse is one of the toughest places to play in the country and used examples of Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville as well as Gino Smith and West Virginia coming to the Carrier Dome and losing the last couple of years.
“I’m very excited about playing in the Carrier Dome,” Boyd said. “I have heard many great things about it. I know it is going to be a ridiculous environment, but we will be prepared for it. It’s going to be exciting and one of the places I have always wanted to play.
“It’s a legendary stadium, and I just can’t wait to play there.”
Swinney brought up the fact that the Orange (2-2, 0-0) was 6-1 in that building last year and is 2-0 in there already this year.
It is always tough when you go on the road but with this particular team they play really well at home,” Swinney said. “They lost one game at home last year. Teddy Bridgewater has been in there and got beat with a top 10 team. Gino has been in there with a top 10 team and has got beat. It is a big challenge for us as we go up there.
“It is hard to win on the road in any league and in anything that you do. Everybody is more comfortable at home. It is your surroundings. It is what you are used to. It is your fans. They are pulling for you.”
This weekend they will be pulling for Syracuse, thought, and it should be loud, hot and muggy in the Carrier Dome. In other words, it’s going to be a challenge for the Tigers.
“This is one of those environments that I have always wanted to check out because it is a tough place to play,” Swinney said. “All you have to do is check out their track record there. It’s just like Death Valley.”
And just like Death Valley it has no air conditioning.