Tigers don't flinch on road to Tampa

by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney gets the gatorade bath at the end of the game.

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier in the week that he didn’t want his team to know the results of the Boston College and North Carolina game. Swinney had a change of heart, however, and told his team before they took the field against Virginia on Saturday that Boston College had lost, and the Tigers were the 2009 Atlantic Division champions.

And how did the Tigers react?

“No one flinched,” Clemson tight end Michael Palmer said after the Tigers took care of business anyway in their 34-21 win. “We really didn’t feel it right then. You had to get the win to feel it. I really didn’t care what Boston College was doing, I just wanted to go out and take care of business. He told us in the pre-game, and frankly, nobody cared. We had to go out and win this game no matter what Boston College did.”

That the Tigers didn’t flinch shouldn’t be surprising, considering the Tigers started 2-3 and didn’t flinch, then took Virginia’s best offensive shot early in Saturday’s game and once again, didn’t flinch.

The result is a rematch against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Tampa on Dec. 5th in a game that will mark the first time in Clemson history the Tigers have played a team two times in a season.

Palmer said that the 2-3 start makes their ACC Championship Game appearance even more special.

“This is just a great feeling,” Palmer said. “The way we were after Maryland just makes this even sweeter. There was a lot of negativity, and we just focused ourselves. Now we know that we have a lot more to accomplish. We are far from done. This is a great feeling, and we are happy, but we are not satisfied.”

Clemson guard Thomas Austin, who played most of the game despite pain in high right foot, said the Tigers had to accomplish the win on the field before feeling like they had accomplished anything.

“We said we wanted to win it outright,” Austin said. “We didn’t want it to come to a tiebreaker. That’s what championship teams do. So for us it wasn’t a factor at all. You can’t let it change your motivation. You want to win no matter what. We want to win next week against South Carolina because that’s the game, and we only have 12 regular season games on the schedule.”

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel said the team had promised the seniors before the game that they would go out a winner.

“We told the seniors we were going to win the game for them before the game started,” McDaniel said. “The crowd had our adrenaline pumping, and it felt really good. We’ve wanted this rematch all year. Now we have our shot.”

Clemson linebacker Brandon Maye said the defense, which struggled in Saturday’s first half before clamping down in the Cavs in the second half, is also looking forward to the trip to Tampa.

“In the second half, we just calmed down, went out, and executed the game plan,” Maye said. “We did what Coach Steele asked of us. I think everybody did a good job of that. Being able to go to Tampa and get another shot at the option offense, it’s a great feeling.”

Swinney said clinching the division title was step two of the team’s five goals for the season.

“The last championship team I’ve been on was in 1999, so I know how to prepare this team and get them ready for it,” Swinney said. “Our first goal was to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division, and we did that. Our next goal is to win a state championship against South Carolina next weekend.

“Our third goal is to win the ACC Championship game. Our fourth goal is to win a Bowl game.

We’re happy today, but we’re not done yet. We have a lot of football left to play, so we’re going back to work this week.”

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