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Clemson Football

Something Sweeter: Playoff Hero Turner Looking to Improve in Rematch

December 31, 2020

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Nolan Turner’s name is synonymous with championship moments. From the crucial interception of Ian Book in the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic to the game-sealing pick of Justin Fields against Ohio State in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, Turner has fit right into the new Clemson mold of coming up huge in the biggest of moments.

Despite the iconic play Turner made in Glendale last year, the senior safety admits that he didn’t play his best game last year. 

“If you go back and watch the tape, we really didn’t play a great game,” Turner said. “They jumped up on us, punched us in the mouth, and got up 16-0. I didn’t play very well last year, and people kind of overlooked that with the interception at the end.” 

After being a part of a defensive back unit that gave up 320 yards to Fields in 2019, who is projected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Turner is hungry to improve. 

“We were fortunate to settle down on defense, get some stops, come back and ultimately win the game,” Turner said of the 2019 matchup with the Buckeyes. “We got to play a lot better fundamentally, tackling [and] finishing plays. It’s been a game I’ve been looking forward to, to get back. I really didn’t play a good game last year.”

For Turner, his chance to build on his College Football Playoff legacy will have to wait until the second half. Turner will have to miss the first 30 minutes of the semifinal due to a targeting call late in the 34-10 drubbing of Notre Dame.

“That’s frustrating,” Turner said. “Obviously, I really want to play in this game, and I’ll get to in the second half. It’s an uncontrollable for me; I can’t control that. [I’m] looking forward to playing in that second half, but in the first half, I got to be a coach, help out and encourage guys.”

While his absence will loom large, Turner remains confident that the younger players behind him will step up against a talented Buckeye passing attack. 

“I’m super confident in whoever we play this week,” Turner said. “We have a great group of committed guys on the back end, and I’m super confident that they can get the job done.”

If there has been one constant in such a tumultuous season, it has been the necessity for teams to create their own energy in stadiums that are nearly or entirely empty. That eerie atmosphere has not spared the sport’s biggest stage.

According to the official website, the Sugar Bowl is expected to host 3,000 fans for this year’s contest, a far cry from the 79,000 seat capacity of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

With all that’s different about this sixth-straight playoff semifinal, the stakes have not changed for Clemson. Turner sees that as enough reason for both teams to be extremely motivated for this highly anticipated rematch. 

“When you have an opportunity to play in a game like this, you shouldn't have to need any extra fuel or motivation,” Turner said. “This is the biggest stage of college football. It's such a fun atmosphere and fun game to play in against phenomenal competition. I look at it, like we say, just like any game, but these are the fun ones right here, postseason play against another top team in the country. It doesn't get any better than this, so that's all the motivation I need.”

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Something Sweeter: Playoff Hero Turner Looking to Improve in Rematch

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