ACC Championship Memories: Can the Tigers add No. 17 Saturday?
|Thursday, November 30, 2017 8:26 AM- -|
Early Friday morning we will head up the interstate towards Charlotte for another ACC Championship Game, and the memories will come in a flood.
The first ACC Championship Game I covered with the Tigers is a bit of a blur – it was all new for us, I missed the coaches’ press conference and it seemed to rain a lot in the few days leading up to the game. The game itself is memorable because there were no punts, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele broke his hand on a chair before the game and the Ramblin’ Wreck car ran over me in the tunnel. Talk about a bad night in Tampa.
Two years later, the ACC had turned the championship game into a showcase event in Charlotte and once the game was over Nikki and I agreed that might have been the most fun we’d ever had covering a football game.
You have to understand – I stood in the tunnel after the loss to Tech in 2009 and watched running back Andre Ellington kick the wall in frustration. I watched the strain build on the coaches and players during a tumultuous 2010 season, and I saw quarterback Tajh Boyd moved to tears after the bowl game loss to South Florida.
The 2011 season was a step in the right direction, and I managed to make it down to the field so I could see the celebration. Oranges came whizzing past our heads - I still have two of them in the freezer at the house – and we watched head coach Dabo Swinney put down yet another foundation block.
We stood to the side as the players took turns trying on a wrestling-style title belt. We watched players and coaches hug as tears fell down their faces, and we watched as fans leaned out of the stands, passing oranges from the front to the back until the entire field was covered in orange. It was that kind of night in Charlotte.
As we walked out of the stadium – still flush with excitement – Nikki’s breath crystallized in the cold night air as she told me that it would be fun to cover an ACC Championship Game at least once out of every three years.
As it turned out, we would have to wait another three long years before covering another. Florida St. owned the Atlantic, and despite the Tigers putting together a solid resume each season it was the Seminoles who represented the Atlantic in the title game.
This year will mark the third consecutive ACC Championship Game for the Tigers. The run that the program has been on is incredible, and it’s been fun to be a part of.
Each of the games has its own special memory for me – I was about ten yards away from the onside kick in Charlotte two years ago when UNC made its comeback – and I watched in slack-jawed disbelief when the Tigers dropped 11 men into coverage against Virginia Tech last season.
Clemson has 16 ACC championships in its history, the most in the history of the conference. Florida State is second with 15. The Tigers have won each of the last two titles and will attempt to make it three in a row for the first time since 1986-87-88. Clemson also won three in a row from 1965-66-67. Florida State is the last school with three in a row, doing it from 2012-14.
Can they make it 17? What memories will we have after this week? What stories will be told? Hopefully, the good memories continue and the stories are the ones that bring a smile.