It has been two days since Clemson dominated Alabama in the national championship and people still can’t believe it. It’s not that people don’t believe the Tigers are capable of beating the Tide, it’s more about the way they went about doing it.
Clemson physically and mentally beat up on Alabama, something you just don’t do to a Nick Saban coached team. It was such a beatdown, the Tide’s players quit in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rolled to a 44-16 victory.
So, just how confident was Clemson Monday night? Did they feel as if they could win by four touchdowns?
“Oh, that would probably be crazy confidence,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I don’t think that we went into the game thinking we were going to beat Alabama by four touchdowns. It just kind of went that way. It was our night, and we got control of the game, and sometimes when – I’ve been on both sides of it.”
The Tigers, who became the first team in the modern era of college football to go 15-0, outscored Alabama 30-0 in the last two-plus quarters. At one point, Clemson scored on five straight possessions and then closed the game with a 10-minute drive.
“Sometimes when you get momentum rolling like we were able to get it and just the energy all channeled in the right direction, it can kind of be insurmountable, and that’s what happened last night,” Swinney said. “I mean, it was just kind of an overwhelming collective effort by our group.”
On the defensive side of the ball, every time the Tide looked like it might score, the Tigers bowed up and denied Alabama from scoring at all. Clemson recorded three straight stops in which they turned Alabama over on downs after the Tide reached the red zone.
“I think to (to beat Alabama) first and foremost, you don’t make it about Alabama,” Swinney said.
The Clemson coach remembers back to the days when he was a player at Alabama, and how so many times Alabama won the game just because they were Alabama. Learning from those experiences, Swinney goes out of his way to make sure his players know they are just as good and that they can beat Alabama.
“I think for our program, it’s something that’s been important to me from day one is to make it about us,” he said. “It’s not about the opponent, and it’s not a disrespect to any opponent, but we really – we try to treat everyone the same. I mean, we don’t practice any different for Alabama than we do for Furman, and that’s not – that’s certainly not a disrespect, it’s just that’s what we do, and that’s exactly what Coach (Nick) Saban at Alabama does, too. I can tell you that right now. He focuses on his team.”
Swinney says to build a championship program, the phrase “I can’t” has to be eliminated from the players vocabulary and from their mind.
“We’ve got to lock in on the things that we control. You have to win in your mind first,” he said. “To do that, you have to have a routine that you believe in, and every game is the biggest game, and you play to a winning performance. It shouldn’t matter who you play.
“Oh, well, this week we’re playing Florida State so let’s really practice hard. Let’s meet really with some intention and purpose. We just don’t look at it that way. So, you certainly know that there’s with some of these games the margin for error is much smaller. I told them last night it’s going to be a few plays. But we just try to keep it all about Clemson, prepare to a standard, and that’s allowed us to have a lot of consistency.”