DALLAS—Clemson did not finish the 2018 season the way it wanted to. However, this season it is back with a new mindset and increased focus.
A few members from that squad admitted during media day in Clemson that the team was not as focused on the game and got distracted by the Sugar Bowl experience. Veteran leadership and memories of the loss are keeping the team locked in on the task at hand.
The second-ranked Tigers square off with No. 3 Notre Dame in AT&T Stadium Saturday in the Cotton Bowl Classic for the College Football Playoff Semifinal, for a chance to play in the 2019 CFP National Championship Game in Santa Clara.
The Tigers have 14 veteran players who have started at least half a season for the last two years, making them one of the most experienced teams in the nation. This experience has translated to on field leadership helping the team maintain its composure in Dallas.
Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliot spoke to the media in the Omni Hotel as a part of breakout interviews previewing the Cotton Bowl Classic. He thinks there is a new mentality in the locker room that he hopes translates onto the field.
“The senior leadership of a bigger senior class and having gone through all of the adversity we went through gives these guys great perspective going in,” Elliot said.
Running back Travis Etienne knows they weren’t all-the-way locked in for that game in New Orleans. But, this year leadership has led to better preparation with one goal in mind.
“I’d say we’re a little bit more focused on why we’re here for the task at hand. We are not taking it for granted and we aren’t just happy to be here,” Etienne said. “We came here with a reason and a purpose to get a win.”
They have not forgotten the mistakes they made a year ago either but are using them as motivation to keep everything tightened up.
“They still have the bad taste in their mouth of not finishing the way they wanted to,” Elliot said. “That mindset is a little bit different.”