No. 6 Clemson focuses on Georgia Tech, not Notre Dame win
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) No. 6 Clemson began preparing for life after Notre Dame well before beating the Fighting Irish this past weekend.
Tigers co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said coach Dabo Swinney made sure for the two weeks leading up to Saturday night’s thrilling 24-22 victory the players knew there was much more season to go.
”He was telling them, `Hey, this is going to be a big moment. But it’s only a moment,”’ Scott recalled Monday. ”At the end of the day, we’re going to be 4-0 or 3-1 and it’s not going to mean a lot as far as the whole season.”
The season continues Saturday when the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) take on Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-2).
Clemson hopes for a championship season will depend on its ability to leave the past behind and focus on the next game.
”We have a goal and dreams that are set in front of us,” said quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Scott said coaches will remind younger players how Clemson opened 2011 at 8-0 and rose to No. 8 nationally before losing three of their next four games.
”This doesn’t mean a lot if we don’t take care of business,” he said.
The Tigers stayed perfect and moved into the top 10 by holding off No. 15 Notre Dame’s late rally in the instant classic played in a soaking rainstorm.
Clemson carried a 21-3 lead into the fourth quarter before the Irish rallied with 19 points and 225 yards in the final period. The game came down to a two-point conversion with Clemson defensive tackle Carlos Watkins stuffing quarterback DeShone Kizer short of the goal line with 7 seconds left.
The sold-out crowd, most covered in orange ponchos and rain suits, roared when time ticked down, many rushing the soggy field to celebrate with the players.
As Kizer and Watson left the field, the friends shared a few words.
”This is one of those games in the future we’re telling our kids about,” Watson said Kizer told him.
But that’s the past and the future, the Tigers need to remain in the present.
Clemson showed off many strong attributes its hopes it can carry into the game against the Yellow Jackets.
The Tigers rushed for 212 yards against a Notre Dame defense that had allowed just 134 yards a game on the ground coming in. Wayne Gallman had 111 yards rushing – a 13-yard reception by Gallman was revised to a run when Clemson coaches went through the tape – to go over the century mark for a second consecutive game.
Scott said that spoke volumes about the Tigers offensive line, which he said was universally panned by most college football analysts as the weakest point of their attack.
”Our big challenge to those guys was that after the game, let’s be sure they’re talking about our offensive line and our running back,” Scott said.
Clemson’s defense forced four turnovers in the second half, including two in the final seven minutes to prevent Notre Dame’s rally. And the defensive line got the push across the line of scrimmage to prevent Kizer from tying the game.
”I set the edge and I knew the guys in the middle would plug it up,” said defensive end Kevin Dodd, named the ACC defensive lineman of the week after two sacks and a caused fumble.
But Clemson knows that lingering in the Notre Dame victory will cost them against the Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets were in the Top 25 a few weeks back, but has lost three straight games. The Tigers faced a similar situation last month against struggling Louisville and saw an anticipated blowout come down to the end in a 20-17 victory.
Georgia Tech safety Jamal Golden said it’s about not letting current problems spiral into a lost season and seeing these three defeats ”triple into six or seven losses. We have got to just take into next week, get ready for Clemson and try to get back into the W-column.”
The Tigers are ready for what’s next against Georgia Tech.
”We’re treating this like a new season,” safety Jayron Kearse said.