Following last week’s come-from-behind win over Syracuse, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it was one of the more memorable wins he has experienced as a coach and it will be one he will never forget.
In case you did, the fourth-ranked Tigers rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to down Syracuse at Death Valley. They did it with Chase Brice, who began the week as the third-team quarterback, while several other key players and starters were either injured or suspended.
With all the saga surrounding Kelly Bryant’s departure from the team and Trevor Lawrence making his first career start to then getting hurt in the second quarter and not returning, the Syracuse game was a draining victory that played with Clemson’s emotions.
“I was personally inspired by our team,” Swinney said on his call-in show this past Monday. “We have had some unbelievable wins around here over the last 10 years. I mean some unbelievable moments. Huge games and hard-fought games and maybe games we were not supposed to win or whatever. But that game right there, that one kind of ranks up there, that one kind of ranks up there with that LSU game for me.”
The LSU game of course came in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl when the Tigers rallied from 11-points down at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the SEC’s Tigers, 25-24, on a game-winning field goal from Chandler Catanzaro as time expired.
Like this past Saturday, when Brice completed a 20-yard pass to Tee Higgins on fourth-and-six to keep the game-winning drive alive, Clemson did the same thing against LSU as former Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd found Deandre Hopkins for a 26-yard strike on the now famous fourth-and-16 play.
“LSU was a better team than us,” Swinney recalled. “We were a little outmanned in some areas, but we were tough and gritty, and we found a way to win the game. But the other night, we were not outmanned, but all that had happened through the week and to see young people rise up and continue with one challenge after another.”
Before the 2018 season started, Swinney talked about how his team would have to accept the challenge when adversity hit. As talented as they are, the only unknown about his team was how they would respond when adversity struck.
Now he knows.
“Obviously, the challenge of a change at quarterback and then that guy gets hurt and then the third-team guys is in there. Then Tremayne Anchrum on the second series of the game is out. Trayvon Mullen, your starting corner, is out. Mark Fields is out. Kyler McMichael, a true freshman, is having to go in there and we are playing a pro quarterback,” Swinney said. “Not only that, we have not really played a passing team yet. Texas A&M was a little more run oriented and then we have been playing triple-option teams.
“I was just so proud of our team. (Gage) Cervenka getting in there at guard. (Sean) Pollard having to go out and play right tackle. Just the way, our purpose and passion that our backs ran with. I just can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys.”
As Swinney said, they refused to lose the game, even when everyone else thought they were going to.
“To see our defense not quit and not have a bad attitude and just continue to play, and to see the team down 10 points in the fourth quarter and you go 94 yards to win the game. That freshman quarterback kind of grew up right there in front of your eyes,” the Clemson coach said.
The Tigers refused to lose and after seeing how hard they fought to get past all the adversity that hit them last week, it makes you wonder if the 2018 Clemson Tigers will. One thing is for sure … they will not go down without a fight.