When the national polls came out Sunday afternoon, a lot of Clemson fans were surprised to see the Tigers still ranked No. 2 in the country.
Though their Tigers won a tough game at Texas A&M the night before, some thought they did not look like the No. 2 team in the country, especially after they watched third-ranked Georgia go into Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia and stomp South Carolina.
Granted, Clemson did lose a couple of its first-place votes in the Associated Press Top 25 from the week before, but overall many voters understood what the Tigers accomplished at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas was not an easy task, no matter how bad they looked at times.
Clemson did not play its best game. It was inconsistent on offense and the defense played perhaps the worst game it can play on the road. When you look at it, the Tigers were primed to be upset by the upstart Texas A&M Aggies.
“We will get better. That’s why we play those games,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Hey! I wish I could tell you that we went to College Station and looked like the national championship version of Clemson at Game 15. But, that did not happen. But you know what? We won. We won, and we won a tough gritty game with a million mistakes.”
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond played out of his mind, too. Nothing went right for the Tigers. Mond threw up three passes to the end zone that could not have been defended any better and all three of them were caught for touchdowns.
It was one of those games where everything, it seemed, was going against Clemson. Those are the kind of games the second-ranked team in the country will lose when it is playing on the road, just because it seems like they are supposed to.
“We did not turn it over. We did not have a bunch of procedural issues. We fought,” Swinney said. “The effort of our team was awesome. I mean I am telling you. I cannot overstate that enough, just how hard our guys fought.”
In other words, Clemson did not give in. It did not give into all the momentum the Aggies had. It did not give into the 104,794 fans that were pulling against them. It went against all of that and defied the odds and found a way to win the game.
“People have no I idea what kind of mental toughness it takes to overcome adversity on the road when all the momentum is going against you and to be able to look it in the eye and just keep fighting,” Swinney said. “To just play the next play. I’m just really proud of our team for where we are right now.”
And Swinney has a very good reason to be proud of his team. They went into one of the most hostile environments in college football and found a way to come out of it on top.
“We made way too many mistakes, but, we are going to improve,” he said. “That is why we schedule those games.”
Look at it this way. Not many Power 5 Conference schools will go on the road, not a neutral site venue keep in mind but a true road game, and play a non-conference game against another Power 5 Conference team like Clemson did this past Saturday night.
It may not have been a pretty win, but it was an impressive win nonetheless.
“We could’ve have played Mary Poppins last week,” Swinney said. “Alright, we’d smash them, and we’re 2-0. Everybody feels so good, but we went to College Station and we played a team that had more four and five stars than us. Just go Goggle the roster. They’re a really talented team. We really had just one good half of football to look at, that’s really all we had. It was a tough game to get ready for.”
And yet, Clemson still found a way to win. That’s what good teams do. They win the game, even when they probably should not have.