Something happened in New Orleans this past Monday night that the Clemson football program isn’t used to … it got physically beat.
That’s what Alabama, especially its defense, did to the Tigers, who were handed their worst defeat in more than three years in the Sugar Bowl.
“They came to play,” Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said afterward. “Credit to them because they came to play and hit us in the mouth. We took it there for a little bit and eventually we finally got some things going, but it is tough.”
The Tigers, who finished the season 12-2, did not pick up a single first down in the first quarter and had minus-7 total yards after one quarter of play. By the end of the third quarter the game was all but over, as Bama built its 24-6 lead, while holding the Tigers to 99 total yards in just 42 plays.
“When you don’t get a first down, you have no rhythm and then you get behind the changes and it is third and long and then they can kind of do and bring different pressures so we just did not play well,” Renfrow said.
The loss was just Clemson’s fourth in the last 47 games. However, like in its loss to Alabama two years ago in the national championship game, they will have to sit on this one all year. What is different about this year, as opposed to then, is the Tigers have to watch two other teams play for the national championship while they are sitting at home.
“It is disappointing. But we can’t let it define our season,” Renfrow said. “We had a good season with a ton of respect and appreciation for the seniors. They did a great job all year just leading us so we are thankful for them so we will try to get better and get back here next year.”
The 2016 loss to Alabama motivated and carried the Tigers to the 2016 National Championship. With some many expected to return from this year’s team, and with an incredibly talented freshmen class coming in, the Tigers will use it as motivation in the off-season.
“It is all about the details. It takes a loss to realize that,” Renfrow said. “Sometimes, if you win, you can get away with an MA (missed assignment) or a bad release or things like that. I’m sure we will have a tough meeting later in January when we go over the things we did not do well.
“It is all about the little things. It is all about attention to details and we did not do that. We can take that and learn from it.”
Clemson is expected to begin spring practice sometime in late February or early March.