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Clemson Football

Ring the Bell

January 1, 2020
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Thank goodness Clemson has over two weeks to heal up for the national championship matchup with LSU because Saturday's showdown between the No. 2 Tigers and No. 3 Buckeyes was nothing short of brutal. The 2019 Fiesta Bowl should have been called by Jim Ross because it was an old fashioned slobber knocker. 

Throughout the entire ballgame, both teams delivered punch after punch and by the end of the game, it took a noticeable toll on both programs-- the slick turf didn’t help either as players were slipping and sliding all night on the grass in Arizona.

Fortunately for Clemson, following their 29-23 come-from-behind win, there's plenty of time to rest up for LSU after the Bayou Bengals cruised in their semi-final against Oklahoma. Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow, shredded the Sooners’ defense for seven touchdowns-- IN THE FIRST HALF. If the Peach Bowl had been a boxing fight the towel would have been thrown in early.

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Justyn Ross attempts to make a reception in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.

For most of the country, watching LSU disassemble Oklahoma 62-28 changed the narrative on who the favorite in New Orleans should be on January 13. However, in my opinion, nothing changed. I said on Clemson Sports Talk, our two-hour daily radio show, that the winner of the Clemson-Ohio State game was going to win the national championship, and I still believe that even after the grueling contest in Arizona.

If the game had to be played this weekend, I might feel differently, but the time to recuperate is huge for Clemson.

The Tigers’ star wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross were both knocked out of the game at different times and neither had a superb performance in the Fiesta Bowl. But both players just continued to pick themselves up off the mat and get back out on the field to help out their teammates. After the game, Dabo Swinney noted the effort that Clemson brought to the table was the difference.

"Both teams played with incredible heart. Give them a lot of credit; we did not start off very well,” Swinney noted. “We made a lot of mistakes, but you saw the character, the heart, and the will to win of a champion tonight."

"Both teams played with incredible heart. Give them a lot of credit; we did not start off very well,” Swinney noted. “We made a lot of mistakes, but you saw the character, the heart, and the will to win of a champion tonight."

Even Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence was hit hard several times, including a targeting violation that knocked him out of the game for one play. Blow after blow, the Tigers just kept coming. 

Late in the game, needing a big play, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback lowered his shoulder to power forward on an 11-yard run during the game-winning drive. Given a similar circumstance moments later, Ohio State’s Justin Fields...slid. It was a tale of two different types of fighters.

Ohio State came out with a flurry of punches and had the defending champions on the ropes, but couldn’t knock the Tigers off their feet. Clemson came out steady and never got rattled during the wave of blows that the Buckeyes threw during the early going. 

Every time OSU had a chance to land a knockout blow Brent Venables’ defense countered holding the Buckeyes to field goals, keeping Clemson in the fight.

"We're a very young team, but to watch them tonight handle their business and it's kind of ironic that we won 29 in a row and we scored 29 points; that was must-see TV. The defense got the stop that they had to have and then to go 94 yards to win it,” Swinney stated. “Our playmakers showed up, Amari (Rodgers) had a huge play down the stretch. Then Trevor, the play to No. 9, we'd set it up the whole game it was a thing of beauty."

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers are seeking their third National Title in four seasons.

Linebacker Baylon Spector, who had two sacks in the game said afterwards it was the Tigers’ preparation that pushed them through.

"It shows a lot of heart. We've been doing this all season. We just work our tail off every day and we come to work every single day of practice. Even during bowl prep. It's a longer practice period, so we just come every day prepared and ready to play."

After the Tigers found their footing, they began throwing punches of their own, landing two big blows before the first half concluded. Sitting in a locker room down 16-14 the Tigers had to feel like momentum was on their side moving forward.  

"I just told them that we took their best shot. We always say, 'don't lose to Clemson'. Sometimes you can get beat, sometimes people make plays, but I thought we lost to Clemson early. So many dumb mistakes, stupid penalties, missed opportunities. 

"I just told them that we took their best shot. We always say, 'don't lose to Clemson'. Sometimes you can get beat sometimes people make plays, but I thought we lost to Clemson early. So many dumb mistakes, stupid penalties, missed opportunities.” 
- Dabo Swinney

“We just didn't do the little things right. Missed a field goal, had a pick-six, but all of a sudden, it's a 16-14 game. I said, 'Hey, we took their best shot right here. Let's get the lead in the third quarter. When we take the lead in the fourth quarter. We all know what that happens,’ I think that's 100-2 (leading at the end of the third quarter) since 2011. Don't panic, we got them right where we want them, we will win it in the fourth quarter."

The Tigers did just that, snapping the nation’s second-longest winning streak and topping the previously undefeated Buckeyes for the fourth time in as many meetings all-time.

Now, standing in Clemson’s way from going 30-0, winning back-to-back national championships, and three-out-of-four titles is LSU and their storybook season. 

The Bayou Bengals are the most talented team on offense that the Tigers have faced. LSU has seen their offense reach unprecedented heights this season and most of it has to do with Burrow. His efficiency is off the charts. The senior quarterback has thrown 55 TDs with just 6 interceptions and completed 77.6% of his passes this year.

Burrow came out of nowhere this season and has shattered virtually every LSU and SEC passing record. He’s fantastic, but Clemson has time to prepare. The Tigers will have their hands full in LSU’s backyard, but they still have the best cornermen in the game in Dabo Swinney, Brent Venables, Tony Elliott, and Jeff Scott. 

That’s got to mean something. 

Ring the bell.

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Ring the Bell

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