Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was very emotional following the Tigers’ season-ending loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl this past Monday night.
Wilkins, one of Clemson’s leaders, felt like he let his teammates down because in his mind he “could not get it done.”
“I look around at these young guys and they’re trusting me to be a leader and to go out there and get it done. Then you have to look at them and realize you did not get it done. You did not do what you needed to do,” Wilkins said while holding back the tears. “So obviously that is tough. You look around at all the seniors, Ryan Carter, Dorian O’Daniel, it is just tough because you have seen how they have grown over their career, it’s just a tough time, but we will get through it. It’s all good.”
Though Wilkins feels like he let his younger teammates and seniors down, that could not be further from the truth. The simple fact of the matter is he played a big role in why the Tigers made it back to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
He was a big reason why the Tigers held Alabama to 261 total yards in the Sugar Bowl, including 141 rushing, more than 120 yards below the Tide’s season average. Wilkins had eight tackles overall, including seven solo tackles in the game.
Wilkins and the rest of the defense did its part, especially when you consider the Tide’s average starting field position was its own 41, while the Tigers started at their own 24. Clemson’s defense spent the majority of the first half on its own side of the field.
The offense did not help matters in the second half when one interception set the Tide up at the Clemson 27 and another was returned for a touchdown.
However, Clemson wins as a team and loses as one too, and that is what Wilkins says makes them so special because each member of the team loves and plays hard for the guy next to him.
“The previous two years we have had a lot of success and we have been through a lot,” Wilkins said. “Obviously, we won a national championship, which was great, and we played in two of them. So obviously, we had a good time, but I definitely had the most fun playing on this team this year because no one expected us to be in this position.
“A lot of people counted us out before this year even started. We would have been in the Potato Bowl if it was up to everybody else. But we fought hard. Guys worked and we took the criticism. We proved people wrong all year, but Alabama was just the better team tonight. I have a lot of respect for them as a program.”