In the words of Clemson senior defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney, the Tigers’ 47-40, double-overtime loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 7 was a “15-round fight” between a couple of heavyweights.
“Two really good teams that were going back and forth the whole game and you never could tell who was going to come out with the win,” Pinckney said last week.
The Tigers suffered their share of blows during the big-time bout between top-four teams in South Bend, especially on the defensive side of the ball where a bunch of players sustained injuries or got banged up.
Already without three starters entering the game – defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones – Clemson saw several more defenders go down over the course of the contest due to various injuries, including safeties Lannden Zanders and Nolan Turner, cornerbacks Sheridan Jones and Andrew Booth, defensive end Justin Mascoll and defensive tackle Bryan Bresee.
Looking back at the game, Pinckney said he appreciated the fight the unit showed despite being shorthanded, and how a number of young players stepped in and competed in the primetime matchup – an invaluable experience that Pinckney believes will aid the growth of freshmen like safeties R.J. Mickens and Ray Thornton and cornerback Fred Davis who had to step up when their numbers were called.
“That’s honestly what I appreciated, too – a few of the young guys that had to come and step in, such as R.J. Mickens stepping in,” Pinckney said. “We haven’t really seen much of him this year. He’s been going back and forth between scout team and coming with us, and I feel like he did pretty well. It just gives them a chance to grow, especially the young guys such as Ray Thornton. It gave players like Fred Davis a chance to play. I just feel like it gave them a chance to grow and get better.
“It didn’t expose them, but it’s going to help grow them and realize maybe I need to work on this certain area and be prepared because anything can happen this year, especially with COVID and injuries. So, this game was really big for them, and I feel like it’s going to help them grow – even some young D-linemen being in the game, such as Myles Murphy or Bryan. Not every game’s going to be a blowout. You’re probably used to seeing that, but every game’s not going to be a blowout. And their time is coming where they might have more games like that. So, I feel like we didn’t run out of steam, I just feel like we fought all the way to the end and we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Pinckney said he had a message for the young guys after the game – losing a game like that is hard, but at the end of the day, it’s only failure if you don’t learn and grow from it.
“I kept telling the young guys that because they’re not used to seeing us lose or being a part of something like that,” Pinckney said. “So, they were kind of upset about it. But I told them, I was like, ‘We’re just going to grow from here.’ … We have time to get healthy with guys that we really need, and just learn and get better.”
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