Things started well with Texas A&M, but turned bitter so quickly with losses to Miami and Boston College. And now, almost two months later, this Clemson football team has another opportunity to beat a team that carries the prestige that you only face a couple of times in a year.
To be fair, Florida State is a shell of its former self. The once dominant program that entered the Atlantic Coast Conference and obliterated everybody in their path has since subsided into a good team that beats almost everybody they play but without dominance.
Gone are the days where Florida State runs through the conference with mostly 30 point wins and the occasional tight game. The Seminoles have lost two conference games already this year and have snuck by several others by the skin of their teeth. When Wake Forest and Maryland took the Seminoles deep into the 4th quarter in Tallahassee, it is as if the Seminoles were human.
None of those chinks in the armor will matter Saturday when FSU runs out of the newly renovated West Zone tunnel to the Tomahawk Chop from their pep band. There is something about the Seminoles that gets the blood pumping.
Maybe it started with Deion Sanders calling his punt return moments before he took it to the house. Or maybe it was Leroy Butler running alone by the Clemson sideline on the infamous Puntrooskie play. Or maybe it was Peter Warrick catching the first pass of the game, days after he was arrested outside of Dillards during Bowden Bowl I.
Whatever the reason for Florida State still causing a stir emotionally after all these years really does not matter. The early kickoff Saturday may be the only thing keeping Death Valley from bursting at the seams, and you can surely bet that the Clemson players will have a hop in their step.
Florida State is not a rival in the same category as the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks are a hated rival for Clemson. Florida State is a really big game that Clemson wants to win more than most others on the schedule. And with the game in Clemson, everything gets pumped up a couple of extra notches.
But this home season has been defined by the great opening win against A&M and the stunning losses thereafter against Miami and Boston College on the last plays of the game. Ho-hum wins against Temple and Duke leave one last opportunity for greatness in Death Valley before the 2005 football season ends.
Florida State certainly offers up that opportunity, and maybe the Tigers find the Seminoles ripe for the picking having already wrapped up the Atlantic Division title. Or maybe the Tigers find FSU in a foul mood, having been ripped to shreds by a pitiful North Carolina State team that Clemson dismantled just a month ago.
Either way, Death Valley will be ready with Clemson fans hungry for a shining moment in Death Valley to serve as the bookend to the opening season thrilling win against the Aggies. I call it a need for closure. A need for one more lasting memory from a home schedule that has been truly unique in Clemson football history.
The opportunities that knocked before week one now come full circle at high noon this Saturday on Senior Day. And I think we are all ready to roar to help exorcise the demons of Miami and Boston College.
I have thought for several years that the aura of wearing all orange at home had lost its luster. If there was any doubt to that theory, it was proved in back to back games wearing all orange against Temple and Duke.
FSU is one banged up bunch of football players. Running back Leon Washington and top defensive end Kamerion Wimbley are doubtful for Saturday's game. John Frady had surgery on Monday and is lost for the season. Greg Carr, Willie Reid, Brodrick Bunkley, Andre Fluellen, and Darrell Burston should play Saturday but with a variety of nagging injuries. In theory, all of those great recruiting classes should help FSU plug in talented players. We’ll see.
Saturday will be senior day for a handful of starters and key reserves. Chip Myrick, Bobby Williamson, Cole Downer, Kyle Browning, Curtis Baham, Stephen Jackson, Cliff Harrell, Charles Bennett, Cory Groover, Trey Tate, Lionel Richardson, David Dunham, Tye Hill, Jamaal Fudge, and Stephen Fur will all make their last run down the hill as Clemson Tigers. And, of course, Charlie Whitehurst will be in his final home game as a Clemson Tiger as well.
Speaking of Whitehurst, it was his touchdown run against FSU late in the first half in 2003 that really propelled Clemson to the win. As you may recall, Whitehurst was hit at the goal line and his helmet came flying off, once again speaking to the toughness of (statistically) the best Clemson passing quarterback in history.
Those IPTAY members that had priority to purchase tickets to the South Carolina game this year are patting themselves on the back this week with the announcement of only Pay-Per-View television for the big rivalry game. For those without tickets, be thankful that USC is offering the game on PPV so you will have the option of purchasing the game.
I get the feeling that a goofy uniform combination is headed our way Saturday. It is the last home game of the season, and we have been rather normal with our home uniforms this year. Will it be the purple tops with orange pants that we are undefeated while wearing? Or does all purple make its debut?
It seems this has been a season of bad breaks for the Clemson football team. I’m not trying to make an excuse, but it just seems like the Tigers have not caught many breaks at the most opportune times this season. Coach Bowden likes to say that “eventually the worm will turn”. If you believe in fate and redemption and that everything balances itself out in life, then you have to hold out hope that the sun is going to shine on Clemson Saturday. If any team has ever deserved a break, it is this team.