The following is the latest post on Mickey Plyler's blog. Plyler updates his blog at least once every weekday and it can be found on TigerNet at http://www.tigernet.com/blogs/plyler/ or on the right side of the front page of TigerNet.
I had a Gamecock friend of mine text me Saturday night with the message, “Same ole’ Clemson. Can’t win a close one.”
I did not respond but anyone that thinks this is the same ole’ Clemson was not paying attention.
For the final three of four seasons under Tommy Bowden I complained about how Clemson lost close games because the Tigers were not tough enough or physical enough. I grew up watching Clemson physical beat up teams and thought the Tigers toughness was a major part of the success in the late 70s and early 80s.
I always liked Bowden but always thought his teams needed to be tougher and was pretty vocal about it.
The day Dabo was given the interim head coach title he talked about making this program tougher. That was not going to be an overnight transition but he started that process as an interim coach.
In Dabo’s first true season as a head coach last year I thought his team made strides and it was that toughness that was part of the reason the Tigers won the Atlantic Division title.
However, I saw a new level of this physical presence Saturday night in Auburn.
The schedule gets more difficult in the next few weeks when Miami comes to town followed by a trip to Chapel Hill and who knows how this team will react but this is not the same ole’ Clemson. I think this program has turned the corner in terms of toughness and I think this will pay big dividends.
This is not to suggest that Clemson will win every game but if it is the more physical team every game then they will win more than their fare share.
There will never be a moral victory in this program but I will never complain about losing a game on the road against a ranked team when Clemson plays hard and plays physical.
I can complain when they lose to an inferior team but that was not the case Saturday.
I can complain if the Tigers lose at home but that was not the case Saturday.
I can complain if the Tigers lose because they were not physical or did not play with passion and emotion but again that was not the case.
No one hates losing more than me but I also understand that you cant win every game, so as long as my team plays hard and plays physical then I have a hard time complaining.
Several years ago I remember watching Nebraska play on television and the Huskers lost a close, hard fought contest. As their team was walking off the field, their fans gave them a standing ovation. Some would question this move but Nebraska fans are well schooled in good football and are some of the most knowledgeable fans in the sport. They understand you can’t win every week but they do realize good effort when they see it.
Losing stinks. Losing 17-point leads really stink. Losing in overtime really, really stinks. And the Tigers made enough mistakes to lose. But they also did enough good things to win a lot of football games.
We learned nothing about this team against North Texas or Presbyterian but Saturday night we learned a lot.
We learned that Billy Napier is a very good offensive coordinator and a terrific play caller.
We learned that Clemson can be extremely physical on both lines of scrimmage.
We learned that Kyle Parker is one tough Tiger. Later this week I will write a blog about what Parker proved Saturday night but he went way up in the minds of a lot of Tiger fans because of the toughness he showcased.
We learned that Andre Ellington can be the feature back. He out played the much more heralded Auburn backs.
We learned Jamie Harper is a terrific receiver out of the backfield.
We learned this team showed a lot of fortitude after losing its composure and getting behind 24-17 at the end of the third quarter. This team could have folded at that point but they fought back and showed me a lot with that kind of gutsy comeback.
We learned that DaQuan Bowers, Andre Branch, Brandon Thompson and Jarvis Jenkins can dominate at times.
We learned that Clemson has “SEC speed.”
We learned this staff can prepare a team for a big game in terms of game plan and emotionally.
We learned that this team will not be intimidated in a tough atmosphere.
I still have some concerns about the defense. I have some questions about the linebackers and wide receivers. I still think place-kicking may be a question mark as well.
But Saturday night game us a glimpse of the future and some answers to a lot of questions.
Clemson’s season starts in two weeks against Miami and the Hurricanes may be a better team than Auburn. But this one will be at home and Clemson will have a chance to start their defense of the Atlantic Division title in two weeks.
Clemson may not win another game this year but I feel very confident that this program is closer to getting it to where Dabo wants it because of the physical toughness shown Saturday night.
As Dabo said yesterday, the Tigers will have to win tough road games to win this conference but that can happen if this team brings this physical approach and stays resilient.
You can say a lot about this team but you can’t say this is the same ole’ Clemson.