All week it was very clear that the stench of Clemson’s 2012 Orange Bowl appearance, where the Tigers laid an egg and were routed by West Virginia 70-33, was still fresh on the mind of coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Tajh Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins and every other current Clemson player that was on that roster. To them they entered Sun Life Stadium Friday night with something to prove to their fans, the world, and most importantly themselves.
Tajh Boyd talked about what the Tigers learned from their last appearance.
It was a disappointing and disheartening loss. It’s something that you’ll never forget. During that season we were a very young team. We knew how to win games, but be didn’t understand what came with the success. For us it was all about the transition and continuing to move forward year in and year out. And you see the accumulation of that now. We’re a driven team that knows how to win games in the clutch.
And win in the clutch they did. Head coach Dabo Swinney knew that with a post season record of 2-3 in his era and no BCS win in school history, if the Tigers wanted to be mentioned among the best programs in the nation and for the respect of the ACC as it tries to compete with the football powerhouse SEC, a win last night was essential.
The SEC has been dominant because they produce one or two teams that have made them relevant all year and in the mix for a national championship. The ACC has not been able to do that. We need that as a conference. We need two, three, or four teams that are nationally relevant. We think we have a great conference. It’s the first time in history that all the major awards were won by ACC guys. We’re excited about where we are, but we need to win these games. That’s the next step. We have not held up our end of the deal in these BCS games. For us to have an opportunity to play in the national championship we have to win these type of games to further our program and represent the league.
This was a point that Swinney honed into the minds of his players all week. If they wanted to be respected by the college football community, their peers and the world, a win on last night’s Orange Bowl stage was a must. The Tigers took that mentality on the field and with a victory over a good Ohio State team made a leap in the right direction.
Orange Bowl Quick Hits:
• Clemson receiver and game MVP Sammy Watkins was by far the most talked about player in the press box. With 227 yards and 2 touchdowns, the junior left little question as to whether he is NFL ready.
• Ohio State fans showed why they are often recognized as one of the best travelled fan bases in college football. Despite being 1,153 miles from Columbus, the Buckeyes outnumbered Clemson fans as least 4 to 1.
• Questions still linger as to whether Ohio State’s Braxton Miller will declare for the NFL draft. Press box was split on if he should take the leap. Although he is a very talented player, I feel like another year wouldn’t hurt.
• The tailgate scene outside of the Orange Bowl was one of the best I’ve seen. Fans were perched outside of the Sun Life stadium well over four hours before the game playing music, eating well and of course drinking.
• Although disappointed with the loss many of the OSU fans weren’t as upset as I expected. It just goes to show how a entertaining game of football slightly softens the blow of a L.
• I am now a believer. The Buckeye football team might not have won the football contest, but their band is definitely one of the best in the land. They received a standing ovation when they entered the field and the entire stadium stayed standing during their entire performance.
• The Orange Bowl committee and the staff at Sun Life stadium were awesome. There were plenty of people available to help attendees with anything they needed. Things were definitely first class.