When Clemson played Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on December 28, 2019, Myles Murphy was sitting at home in Marietta, Ga., having just inked his National Letter of Intent with the Tigers 10 days earlier.
A year later, after enrolling at Clemson in January, the former five-star defensive end finds himself getting ready to face the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl CFP semifinal in New Orleans on Friday.
“It is pretty surreal,” Murphy said this week. “It is kind of funny to think that I was watching this exact game last year and now I’m in it. It is very special to be on the couch watching it [the College Football Playoff] and then the year after, after a great freshman season, being in the game. So, it is a pretty surreal moment.”
It’s about to get real for Murphy and his fellow defensive linemen as they are getting ready to clash in the trenches against a stout Ohio State offensive line, which has paved the way for a ground attack that ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game (275.7).
The Buckeyes are coming off a 399-yard rushing performance in their Big Ten title game win over Northwestern on Dec. 19, when senior running back Trey Sermon amassed 331 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
“They’re pretty big. A pretty big offensive line,” Murphy said. “They’re strong up front, so we will have to be strong on the point of attack up front, and they have a very good run game. It’s very good structurally with play calls and creating stretches inside the zone. So, we’re going to have to be very sound in our technique and very stout and strong at the point of attack to make sure the line is not moved in the wrong directions. It’s going to be very good up there [on the line].”
Murphy and the Tigers hope to build off an excellent defensive effort against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 19 and see the success translate to the Sugar Bowl.
Clemson’s defense limited the Fighting Irish to 263 total yards and stifled the Notre Dame running game, which has averaged more than 215 yards per game on the ground this season, to just 44 yards on 30 carries.
“We had a good outing defensively in the ACC Championship game,” Murphy said. “Coach Swinney always says we play our best games during the end of the season. Our game only starts to go up during the end of the season once we put on the orange britches.
“So, I’m sure and have full confidence that it will carry over, but we can’t just hope that it’ll carry over. We have to put in the preparation, watch film, keep staying in the weight room, recovery and stretching and what not.”
While Murphy can’t wait to compete in the playoff on New Year’s Day, he is trying to keep his emotions in check and remain locked in as he prepares for the biggest game of his young career.
“I am very excited,” he said. “It’s more so staying in the preparation, staying in the playbook, but it is a very exciting moment.”
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