Statement game? Clemson players say yes

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson seniors said on Tuesday that they are looking at this Saturday as their chance to make a statement.

CLEMSON – Statement game?
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says no, that Saturday’s matchup against the defending national champion, No. 21 Auburn, is more of an opportunity than a statement.

“It's an opportunity for momentum. If you look at my first year, the win at Miami was a big win that created momentum for us,” Swinney said Tuesday. “Then we came back and beat Florida State and N.C. State and Virginia and we won the division. That win created momentum.

“It’s early and we don't know a lot about this team yet. The only way you find out is to go play. We play the longest winning streak in the country and the national champions. Statement game? I don't know if I'd say that. We won't cancel the season if we win it or lose it. We have to focus on playing well.”

Auburn enters play with a 17-game winning streak and SEC Championship and National Championship rings on their resume, along with the knowledge that last season’s 27-24 overtime win over Clemson was a springboard for their season.

Clemson, on the other hand, won just four games the rest of the way and ended with a desultory loss in a sparsely-attended bowl game, something Clemson players don’t want to repeat. Losing to Auburn would make it hard to find a way to bounce back and beat Florida St. a week later, and several Clemson seniors said on Tuesday that they are looking at this Saturday as their chance to make a statement.

“It’s a huge game, obviously, especially after the way we ended things last year,” offensive tackle Landon WalkerLandon Walker
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#72 6-6, 310
North Wilkesboro, NC

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said. “There is a lot to be said this week. It is going to be a game that sets the tone for the season. It would put Clemson on the map. There is not a lot of talk about Clemson this year. You turn on college football shows and they talk about a lot of teams that are 2-0 but you don’t hear anything about us. We are used to that.

“But if we beat the defending national champs and SEC champs and that record, it would be a good thing. We are trying to make a statement this game and make a statement with the way we play. There is always one game every season that can either lift you or let you down. The way it ended last season wasn’t good for us, but a big win next week would carry over into our conference games. If we had just won that game, last season might have been different.”

Defensive tackle Rennie MooreRennie Moore
RS Sr. Defensive Tackle
#94 6-4, 270
Saint Marys, GA

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said last season’s loss is painful, and he hopes to erase that pain with a strong performance this week.

“That is a hard memory to bring up,” Moore said. “We let up and they did what champions do. This [game] will tell it all if we step up as men and do what we have to do. Their level of winning is up there now that they have won. We have to match it. This is definitely a statement game – no doubt about it. I plan on making a big statement and the defense plans on making a big statement. This game is very personal – we know we had them beat down there and they came back and took it from us and that took a lot out of us.”

Senior defensive end Andre BranchAndre Branch
RS Sr. Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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said he has heard all of the talk about how Auburn is rebuilding and how many great players the program lost – including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton and first-round draft pick Nick Fairley – but none of that matters.

“They are still a ranked team, the reigning national champs and still a great team,” Branch said. “Last year hurt, but it wasn’t our time I guess. A lot of people say that game set both of our seasons. You could say that this is a statement game because they are the national champs and have the longest winning streak. Beating them would be huge, gaining momentum into our season. It would be a huge win for us. It was an old street fight last year, and that is what I like."

Running back Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Jr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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said he views Saturday as a way to gain momentum heading into ACC play.

“Last year, it was heart breaking more than anything. It felt like we should have won that game. It was just one of those games where you wish you could go back and change some things. A win might have taken us over the edge and prepared us for a great season, but that loss last year took us down. Hopefully we get the win. Just being 3-0 heading into the next game would be a really good feeling.”

Moore says there is no pressure, just the chance to write some new history.

“No pressure. No pressure at all. Everybody gets a second chance.”

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