Clemson’s 37-13 victory over Wake Forest Saturday night was not your everyday run-of-the-mill win to open a college football season. Sure, it was the Tigers’ 11th opening-day victory in 12 years under Dabo Swinney and sure it was the program’s 94 all-time. But it was much more.
This is a victory that will go down in Clemson history unlike any other.
Sure, there is Trevor Lawrence’s 351 yards and three total touchdowns to pay attention to. Yes, running back Travis Etienne set a record with his 18th career 100-yard game and the tight end once again exists in the Clemson offense.
But Saturday’s game at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, N.C., was about more than all of that, it was about getting to this point and the ability to play a college football game that meant so much more.
“It was emotional. It really was,” Swinney said after the game. “This is what we love to do. This is not just a job. This is our passion. This is what we love to do. It is hard work, but I don’t consider it work. This is our passion. Coaches love to coach. Everybody who is a part of the program, they love what they do. Our players love to play.
“Nobody had to be here. Everybody could have quiet. Everybody could have walked away. Everybody could have gone home, coaches, players, everybody. But everybody kept the faith and here we are. It was pretty special and an emotional night. It really was.”
Due to the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a night where there were no fans in the stands. Players are asked to undergo three tests per week leading up to the game, including one on Friday afternoon. Coaches are serving team meals at the team hotel and all the media interviews are conducted virtually.
A lot has changed because of the pandemic, but none of it mattered when the teams got on the field and started playing.
“To just see these guys and their love for one another, it is just amazing. It gives you so much hope when you see the type of young people we have in our program. It is a beautiful thing,” Swinney said.
Officially, Clemson is credited with the win, but the victory goes to everyone on both teams and in the ACC, who helped put the entire weekend of college football together so America’s passion could truly be played again when no one ever thought it would.
“The undertaken to get to this point, it definitely was a win,” Swinney said. “There was no doubt about it. These kids, they want to play ball. I know the Wake Forest players worked extremely hard. This was a special night for all of us, for all of college football and for everyone who had an opportunity to get back out there.
“Again, hopefully, we can be a good example moving forward and continue to do a good job.”
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