Ajou: ‘You gotta play for the dude beside you’

Ajou: ‘You gotta play for the dude beside you’

Football

Ajou: ‘You gotta play for the dude beside you’

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Through its first six games, Clemson has struggled to build momentum on the field, but sophomore Ajou Ajou is confident this year’s team is about to turn the corner. The wide receiver, who got his first career start this past weekend in the Tiger’s 17-14 win over Syracuse, has seen how special this team can be off the field and knows it’s just a matter of time before the pieces finally all come together.

“I’m telling y’all… this weekend might be it,” Ajou told the media on Tuesday. “It’s going to be it, I believe it. We’re very close.”

The real difference this season though has been in the details. With many of Clemson’s games coming down to the wire, the Tigers cannot afford the penalties and errors that have continued to pile up on the offensive side of the ball.

“Just like, you’ve seen it, how many games have been like one score now… you know, and it’s all been like one play, two plays… that’s the whole difference,” the Canada-native said. “We all gotta buy in and do our jobs.”

“No mental errors, you know, you gotta play for the dude beside you, for real, so just executing what you gotta do and hoping that all eleven guys will do it at the same time.”

With the close attention to detail also comes the struggle with perfection, something Ajou himself encountered on Saturday when he made a mental error early on in the first drive, that in addition to other minor miscues, led to the Tigers leaving the first quarter scoreless.

“Like ten guys will do their job and then one guy won’t… Like that play right there,” Ajou said. “If I had just blocked my guy, who knows, we could’ve taken it to the house. Just trying to get everyone on the same page; that’s kind of one of our biggest challenges right now.”

While missing that block in the first quarter stung, Ajou chose to use his mistake to remind himself why he plays the game in the first place.

“Really just take it back a few years when you were just playing for the love of the game. Like when you messed up, it was like short term memory. It was like second quarter and all, and I was like, let me just take it back a few. Let me just chill, relax, and do what I love. If I mess up, I mess up and just accept it.”

Into the second quarter, the wide receiver showed up big with two receptions on third down for the Tigers, totaling a season-high 19 yards.

Clemson hits the road this weekend once again to face a talented Pittsburgh team at the helm of quarterback Kenny Pickett on Saturday, October 23, at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa. Kickoff is set for 3:30pm on ESPN.

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