Syracuse loss and questions about talent loss fuel Clemson's run to Playoff


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Carter talks to the media Thursday at the Sugar Bowl
Carter talks to the media Thursday at the Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Ryan Carter and his Clemson teammates sat in the locker room at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse in October, and the thin walls did nothing to hide the celebration and party going on next door. The cheers and the laughter that echoed off the ceiling resonated with Carter and his teammates.

Unranked Syracuse knocked off Clemson 27-24, a sobering defeat for a program that wanted to win the ACC and perhaps make a return to the College Football Playoff. As the cheers got louder, Carter sat in silence, vowing that he and his teammates would respond the right way.

“It was tough. There was a lot of disappointment and a lot of regrets, but unfortunately, things like that happen,” Carter told TigerNet Thursday. “It was not a feeling that a lot of us are used to. It was tough to hear that. I think having that bye the next week really helped us to look at ourselves, what our weaknesses are. It was tough hearing them celebrate. I thought even with the way we struggled it was still a close game. It was tough but guys did a really good job of responding and it’s evident.”

Since the loss, the Tigers have reeled off six consecutive wins and enter the College Football Playoff as the number one seed. But the loss wasn’t the only fuel for the program – the players heard all off-season about how former quarterback Deshaun Watson was the reason Clemson won last year’s National Championship.

There were questions about how the team would weather the loss of talent after last season, and a steely resolve was found on the practice fields.

“Oh yeah, especially at the beginning of the year,” Carter said. “We heard it all. ‘We’re not going to be as good. We lost all of these playmakers - Deshaun, Mike, Artavis, Jadar, Cordrea.’ We lost all of these playmakers, how are we going to respond? How are we going to be able to be that same team? There were a lot of doubters, but the big thing for us is that we knew we could be in the same position again.”

Carter said outsiders forgot that the Tigers still had a lot of talent, talent that came together after the loss to the Orange.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in the situation and I think it was big for us trying to block out that outside noise and not let that get into our head,” he said. “Coach Swinney always harps on not paying too much attention to what people are saying on the outside. I thought we did a great job of that, especially after Syracuse.

“That was tough for us. In that locker room, it really hurt as far as all of us not being used to losing. I think right then at the end of that game, we had to make a decision as far as how are we going to handle going forward. I thought we did a great job as far as responding and looking at our weaknesses and looking at things like that. We definitely had a chip on our shoulder from that game, especially, to prove that we have playmakers that are still at Clemson and that can still get the job done.”


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