Next man up was the role offensive lineman Gage Cervenka had to quickly take on in Saturday’s victory over Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
After Clemson’s starting center Justin Falcinelli suffered a concussion in last Thursday’s practice, Cervenka had to step up and handle his first career start at center.
“It was amazing, it was everything I ever dreamed of and more,” Cervenka said on Monday. “It’s crazy, we scored 59 points, that’s my number so it was really cool to do that.
“It was awesome though. I hate that Justin got hurt but he’s back and healthy again. I really can’t describe that feeling of going out there and being able to perform for my team.”
Going into the game Cervenka admitted he did feel some nerves but ultimately knew he had prepared for the moment and was nothing but ready.
“I mean, I was a little nervous of course,” he said. “That’s going to happen with any competition. I wrestled a lot in high school and before every match, it didn’t matter who I was wrestling, I would still get nervous.
“It’s just how competition is. I just look back and even if I wasn’t starting, I prepare the same way. When I look back at my preparation, I know that I prepared enough to be ready for that game.”
Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was extremely pleased with the job Cervenka did on Saturday and was confident he would be ready.
“Shout out to Gage, he did an unbelievable job,” Elliott said. “That’s just a testament to the philosophy that we have of playing those guys. We get questions every week about how many guys have played. ‘What about the rotation on the offensive line? Do you worry about that?’
“But in times like this it pays off if you give those guys experience. So, he’s played at center, he’s played at guard, and then also he saw how Chase (Brice) stepped up when his number was called. So, we just tell the guys that you have to be ready because they’re really one snap away from either in the game or the practice field from being in a starting role.”
Elliott also gave Cervanka some advance before the game the redshirt junior clearly listened to.
“One of the things that I told him, ‘You’re driving a Maserati now you can’t crash it. This isn’t a big, block Chevy now. This thing is fragile so make sure you understand what you’re doing,’ and he just kind of laughed it off,” Elliott said. “But I could see that when he knew he was going to be the guy, his demeanor changed and there’s always something different about being the starter. But, I’m really, really proud of him and I think that his guys upfront rallied around him and he was able to go out.”