DALLAS — When Clemson left the College Football Playoff semifinal game last year in New Orleans, it was time to go home. The Tigers lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and the Crimson Tide went on to win the national championship a week later.
But this year the Tigers have another chance as they take on Notre Dame Saturday in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s been absolutely incredible (the experience),” Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar told The Clemson Insider. “The Cotton Bowl is really one of the best bowls out there.
“I felt the hospitality the entire time. They’ve done a great job. The events they’ve set up for us have been second to none and obviously this stadium is something you dream about as a kid. So playing here is surreal.”
Despite the great experience Clemson has had so far, the team has also had to deal with a huge setback this week. Freshman tight end Braden Galloway, reserve offensive lineman Zach Giella and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence all tested positive for a small trace of Ostarine, a performance enhancing drug.
The three players did not intentionally ingest the substance and an investigation as to how a trace of the drug got in their systems is underway. Needless to say, it’s been a hard time for the entire team.
“(The situation) just made me want to kind of wrap my arms around those guys and just be as supportive as I can to those guys in this moment for them because I know it’s tough on them,” Lamar said. “They want to be out there playing with their teammates but they can’t so we’re just showing them that we love them, they’re still a part of this team and they really stepped into kind of a vocal role and have done a great job with that.”
Despite the distraction Lamar says the overall mood and morale of the team has been great this week and they know they are prepared to take on the Irish.
“Positive, focused,” he said. “We’re really taking this time to hone in on our details, hone in on a plan and make sure that there are absolutely no mistakes and kind of leave no rock unturned.”
It also helps to have several seniors who have really given the team a strong sense of leadership this year.
“I would just say there’s so many voices and so many leadership voices from our season,” Lamar said. “Really look to take that to heart, what they say and they’ve really been keeping us on track with our preparations and things like that.”