CLEMSON - Clemson cornerback Dextra Polite doesn't need a shot in the arm for his confidence.
He doesn't need consoling three days after N.C. State wore down the Clemson defense.
He just needs another game.
"I'm going to keep working and fighting harder," he said. "I'm going to get better every day. I'm not going to let one game get me down."
Maybe Polite by now has completely lost sight of the fact that Clemson hasn't won a road game since 1997. It's not just one game. There has been a string of close losses on the road. The Tigers lost three road games last year by a touchdown or less. This year has been no different.
This week Clemson travels to Maryland. Like a sick gambler who wants to try the roulette wheel one more time, Polite is more confident than ever that Clemson's fortunes on the road are going to turn around soon.
"I think if we execute and stop the run and give up no big plays, there ain't no team that can beat us," he said.
That would have been the proper formula for beating N.C. State. And on paper it doesn't appear that the defense collapsed. Clemson gave up 350 total yards, just five more than it gave up against Virginia in a 33-14 Clemson win.
Nothing out of the ordinary, except the time of possession.
N.C. State held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. Scoring drives of 80, 71, 94 and 65 yards wore Clemson down. The most damaging drive was the 65-yarder that consumed the first eight minutes of the third quarter.
Clemson, which was fifth in the nation in turnover margin, forced just one turnover. Clemson's defense didn't look bad on paper, but nearly every drive damaged the Tigers.
"The eight minute drive they had at the beginning of the second half was discouraging," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. "We gave up 35 points to a team that was averaging about 17."
Now Clemson faces a Maryland team that is second in the league in rushing and first in turnover margin. Also, the Terps are first in the league in total defense.
"They're very sound," said Bowden. "They don't give up a tremendous amount of big plays. They're sound in their offensive system. They keep the ball and move it down the field." Sound familiar?
Polite's not worried, though. "We're just going to go out there and prove that the defense can pay like we're supposed to play defense," he said. "We feel like we're getting better every week, making progress. We're going to turn the whole program around and set the standard on defense...this ain't last year's team. The offense did their part and we should have done our part on defense and go down there and stop their offense. We've got to keep getting the offense the ball and stop the offense and do a better job that we did."