Tigers have one goal in New Orleans: No one 'gives a hoot' about Bourbon Street
|Tuesday, January 7, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – The last time Clemson visited New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, Tiger players were frequent visitors to Bourbon Street and Café du Monde and the sights and sounds of New Orleans around the new year. When the game arrived, Alabama looked like the more focused team and walked out of the Superdome with a victory.
This time, none of the Clemson players will give a hoot about Bourbon Street as the Tigers prepare to take on LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“The difference between a bowl game and a National Championship is we are there a week for a bowl game. We definitely weren't as focused as we needed to be last time,” linebacker James Skalski said. “We are very well aware of that. That is why we lost, that and Alabama was the better team that day. They kicked our ass. But we go down there on Friday this time and we have a couple of days, but I don't think anyone gives a hoot about Bourbon Street this time around. We are there to make history.”
Right guard Gage Cervenka agrees.
“My biggest thing is not playing for a National Championship, it's where we are playing at. In New Orleans you have all these different temptations of going to Bourbon Street and just things like that which can be a distraction. That hurt us last time,” Cervenka said. “We are telling these guys that this is a business trip and this isn't a time to go out there and play around. That is what the bowl game is for, to go out there and enjoy the time that we have there, but this right now is no play, it's all business. You can enjoy the win after the game and when we can get home. We have to make sure we are locked into what we have ahead. The biggest thing is to not get distracted.”
Linebacker Chad Smith said the Tigers’ bowl experience happened in Arizona.
“We weren't really as focused as a team last time we were down there. We had our bowl experience in the Fiesta Bowl. We had our bowl experience in Arizona,” Smith said. “This is for a National Championship and the bowl experience is over. We have to be disciplined in how we approach our time off in New Orleans. We have to stay focused. It's up to the leaders to make sure we set the tone before we go down there and let the young guys know that we don't need any distractions down there and there is zero-tolerance for distractions. Everyone has to be focused and ready to contribute.”
Cervenka said there is no time for pleasure this time around.
“I feel like we prepared and we fought hard, but at the end of the day, we lost in not being focused going into the game. It was the days before the game,” Cervenka said. “We had too many guys trying to enjoy each day too much. I think the biggest thing is we weren't focused enough going into the game. This is a business trip through and through. There is no time for pleasure and going out and enjoying things. If we win the game, we will have time afterward.
“It's nice that we aren't there for a week like a normal bowl game would be. I have been there and I have experienced that so these seniors and juniors can talk to these freshmen and sophomores and the guys that haven't been there and tell them that they will be back. You can go some other time. This is no time to play around because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don't get to play for a National Championship all the time. You don't this opportunity a lot so you have to make sure you capitalize on it.”
Skalski said the juniors and seniors have to help the younger players understand what’s at stake.
“We have to help people understand the opportunity that is right in front us, and that it doesn't come around that often, if ever. Rarely ever,” Skalski said. “A chance to win back-to-back national championship and go 30-0 in this era of college football. That is so special, and we are going to look back twenty years from now and realize that. People need to understand that, especially for the younger guys that have seen our success over the last four or five years and have seen what we've accomplished this season and realize that it doesn't just happen. There is a lot of stuff that goes into it, and unless they understand that now you will learn the hard truth of it later.”