Sunday, September 25, 2011

Role Reversal

           There are not many Clemson fans out there who would have told you September 2, 2011 that this football would be 4-0 heading into a marquee battle against Virginia Tech. The events of the last two weeks have been experiences many Clemson fans have been longing for since the late 80s, early 90s. The Auburn game was a surreal experience, to watch a Clemson team get down early, then crawl their way back, score when they had to, respond after a turnover and then seal the game by executing on third down late in the 4th quarter. Many like myself must have been doing double takes as they watched a Clemson team roll up 624 yards of total offense against a SEC opponent.

            There have been many detractors and people from the outside providing their two cents on the remarkable two game stretch this Clemson team has been on but they do not have a clue what orange blooded Clemson fans have been through in the last 20 years. Clemson is a program that prides itself on tradition and winning at a high level but lets face it, it has been a long time since Clemson has put together impressive performances like we have seen in the last two weeks.

            When is the last time you have seen a Clemson offense come out and pick things up for a defense that is struggling? Even the in “glory” days, Clemson was not setting offensive scoring or yardage records. Clemson teams were built with dominant defenses coupled with adequate offenses charged with making enough plays without turning the ball over to win games. For a decade it proved quite a formula for success.

            Fast forward 20 years and here we are watching a Clemson offense led by an offensive coordinator who was coaching football two years ago averaging 505 yards of offense per contest. I do not need to remind Clemson fans of the missed opportunities, the play here and there, the simple short yard conversion, and dropped passes that have plagued this program. It is with this in mind that outsiders and experts must excuse us because the whole “act like you’ve been there” thing does not apply because half of the young men on our football team were not born the last time we won a conference title.

            Who ever thought that they would live to see a day where Clemson University was winning with cascades of offense and just enough defense? This Clemson fan could not. That is not how we roll here at Clemson. Clemson has always prided itself on having solid to dominant defense. This phenomenon is substantiated by the number of defensive players the program has put into the NFL throughout the last 30 years. Until recently, it was hard to find an offensive star from Clemson University on an NFL roster.

            I do not know how to sum up what Clemson fans have witnessed during the first four weeks of the 2011. I have tweeted several times during the course of games that if this is a dream, I do not want to wake up because I am enjoying this way too much.

            Lest we forget there were vocal segments of Tiger Nation who were not enamored with the hire of a man who had spent one year coaching on the collegiate level and prior to his foray into college was coaching high school football. Their disdain, coupled with the concerns of more optimistic fans grew back in April after an less than stellar performance by then anointed starting quarterback Tajh Boyd in the Spring Game. I realize that Spring Games are meaningless but even I was hoping to see improved quarterback play given what we had seen late in the 2010 season. Off-season reports and early season practice tidbits indicated a transformation had taken place. After a shaky start, Tajh Boyd has led a group of youngsters to record setting performances and to consecutive home wins against ranked opponents, something that has never be done in school history.

            I am as excited as anyone about what this team has accomplished during the first four games but now is not the time to start looking at polls, booking hotel rooms for Charlotte or Miami or having delusions of beating the Gamecocks. It is a time to continue to support this team as 5 of their 8 remaining games will be on the road. We are aware of the up coming trip to Blacksburg, but there are trips to College Park, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Columbia. It does not get easier with thorns Boston College, UNC and Wake Forest coming to Clemson to close out the season. This team seems to be giving fans a reason to go "ALL IN" lets enjoy the ride!!!

            The important takeaway for this team and for fans is to continue to focus on the task at hand. This week it is the Virginia Tech Hokies. The reigning ACC Champions will welcome Clemson into Lane Stadium for a 6 pm kick in what will be Tajh Boyd’s first career start. It will mark the first time Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant, Mike Bellamy and other first year players play in the most hostile road environment in the ACC outside of Clemson. Will the clock finally strike midnight? Hard to say but if four games are any indication, this team will be prepared and will battle till they tell them they have to leave the field. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the journey has just begun not only for the 2011 team but for this program.