The whole week around the Upstate of South Carolina seemed to be one big “What if.”
What if I told you that the guy who led Clemson to an ACC Championship and College Football Playoff berth transferred out of the program?
What if I told you the quarterback room from an experience standpoint was slimmer than a Slim Jim?
What if I told you that Hunter Renfrow is listed as the third team quarterback?
What if Trevor Lawrence gets hurt?
What if Chase Brice goes into the game?
How can this program sustain its success without depth?
Nobody would’ve guessed new starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence would be put in concussion protocol in his first game out, right? Well that is why you play the game.
Character is often defined as the actions you take while no one is looking. In football, character is defined in your response when the deck is stacked against you and all Hell seems to break loose.
As Herm Edwards famously said, “Hello! You play to win the game!”
Dabo Swinney and his Tigers did exactly that on Saturday against Syracuse. Clemson did not back down an ounce with their next-man-up mentality.
Chase Brice went from signaling plays in on the sideline to being the “guy” as he helped his team keep their championship hopes alive. That’s a lot to take in for a guy who tosses it around a bit at practice, but only has a handful of throws in a real-game situation.
“Now I need you to find a way to win the game Chase. No excuses! Just find a way to get us out of here with a win.”
I had flashbacks when I saw Trevor take that big shot on the sideline. I’ll take you back to 2010, we’re on the road playing the eventual National Champion Auburn Tigers. Kyle Parker, our starter at the time, had been taking all the reps at practice and was plenty experienced when it came to operating the offense.
I on the other hand, a redshirt freshman, barely knew the playbook and wasn’t often asked to do much outside of the casual scout team quarterback duties. We get to the game and I’m doing what I do on the sideline, talk to my fellow freshman, eat protein bars, drink Gatorade for no reason and act like I’m paying attention to the game.
Then, It happened! It was third down and Kyle takes a huge hit in the ribs from Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. He grimaces and stumbles to the sideline after an unsuccessful conversion on the series.
Kyle is now surrounded by the trainers and coaching staff as the rest of us look on anxiously. After some chatter, Coach Swinney comes to me and says, “Tajh, get ready. You’re going to have to win us the game.”
I almost had an accident on the sideline as he spoke those words to me. You see I wasn’t ready for the situation and hadn’t prepared for it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go into the game, KP came back in and fought courageously as he tried to pull out the victory. We eventually lost in overtime.
Needless to say, from that standpoint on I took practice and meetings as serious as I could and made an effort to study, knowing I was only “One Play Away” from being the starter.
Chase didn’t need to get ready, he had prepared for this moment as best he could. It’s just so difficult to go out and do it when you haven’t necessarily done it. We saw a boy grow into a man in just a matter of two quarters on Saturday.
He overcame adversity, operated within the system and made huge plays down the stretch to lead Clemson to a 27-23 victory. When you have that much pressure on you to perform, not only from the fan base or the opposing team trying to cannibalize you, but form your teammates, it’s hard.
There are guys on this team that wont get a next year. There are no re-dos. They need it right now!
Chase did what he had to do. He performed admirably in the most trying of times. He is the epitome of stay ready so you wont have to get ready. That’s the sign of a champion, that is his makeup and everybody that witnessed that victory and performance saw just who Chase Brice was … he is a winner!