Tigers have focused mindset against pesky Terps

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Senior right tackle Landon WalkerLandon Walker
Gr. Offensive Tackle
#72 6-6, 305
North Wilkesboro, NC

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said he walked into Clemson’s weight room Monday morning, and he saw a slogan that makes him realize the difference between this Clemson team and the Clemson teams of recent seasons.

This year, the Tigers are 6-0 and ranked eighth in the nation, and take their show on the road this weekend when they face a 2-3 Maryland team in Byrd Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday night, and Walker says he doesn’t see the letdown that has almost become a Clemson trademark.

“I walked into the weight room, and I saw a sign that says ‘You can't go 14-0 without going 1-0 one week at a time,’ and we have done a good job of that,” he said. “For example, we know that Georgia Tech is going to be a big game in a couple of weeks, but that won’t be a huge game if we don’t beat Maryland this week. We have to take that mindset, or we won't get to where we want to be. That is the mentality you have to have. You have to win now in order to be competitive at the end of the season. “

The Tigers avoided the letdown against a dangerous Troy team in the season opener, overcame Auburn’s 17-game winning streak in game three, came back with a big win against Florida St. in week four, then took to the road for the first time against Virginia Tech in week five and still came away victorious. Last week, they dispatched Boston College, another team that has given the program fits, in almost methodical fashion.

This week, it’s the Terrapins, who will be celebrating Homecoming. The Tigers are 31-26-2 all-time against Maryland, and the best team has not always been the victor when the two match up, something Walker says head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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has made a point to mention.

“Coach Swinney tells us that when we play like we are capable, we can beat anybody in the country,” he said. “But he also tells us that if we don’t play well, anybody can beat us. There is a fine line there.”

He said that offensive coordinator Chad Morris has also done a good job of reminding the team how they got to 6-0.

“We haven’t been here in a long time, at 6-0,” Walker said. “The higher you climb, the air gets thinner. You have to remind yourself of what got you where you are. At this point, you catch yourself looking at film and thinking, ‘What can we do to beat these guys?’ We aren’t worrying about anything else – not the rankings or anything like that. We are concentrating on Maryland.”

Walker was asked why past trips to Maryland have been so difficult for the Tigers, and he said he didn’t have an easy answer. However, the early start [Noon] two years ago did play a factor, he thinks.

“It was one of those things where we played at noon, and we fell asleep a little bit,” he said. “You don’t expect a really great team to show up, and that can get you beat. We were asleep for most of the first half, and when we woke up they were matching us touchdown for touchdown.

“This year, we have a 7 p.m. primetime game, and if you can't get up for that kind of game, then what can you get up for? It is exciting to play in those games. It is not so exciting to play in the noon game on Raycom. Not to take anything away from Raycom, but that is just how it is. Playing at 7 p.m. on ESPN makes a difference. This year, we just have to be Clemson and do what we do. We need to start strong.”

Center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#55 6-5, 285
Pelion, SC

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had a breakout game against Maryland two years ago – he played almost half the snaps and was named a starter a week later – but says he remembers the feeling of losing that game all too well.

“I remember everybody being tired,” he said. “The mindset wasn’t very focused. We flew up and we got there kind of late, and then we got to bed late. We woke up kind of early and then had to go play the game. This year, we are going to get there earlier, and I think we are going to get settled and have a normal Saturday. Two years ago, it was extremely frustrating and we played flat the whole game. “

This year has been different, according to Freeman, because the team is taking the cue from the leaders and Swinney and realizing that there are no excuses. Every game is a big game, no matter when or where the game is played.

“Any time you play a game, it’s huge, especially a division game,” he said. “We want to take care of business, because if we have one slip up, then everything we have accomplished so far goes away. That is something this team has done a good job of, is always playing with a lot of energy and emotion. We are a completely different team than we were two years ago.”

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