Oh man, I can’t say how I have been looking forward to writing this edition of The Smoldering Ruin. The NC State Wolfpack, fresh with confidence and belief, came to town to play Clemson football Saturday night only to have their dreams dashed, solo cups crushed, and cheap cigars made somehow even less enjoyable. I am going to have fun with this one.
Do you remember in the movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” when Peter and Ned were sitting in P.E and the teacher puts on an educational video where Captain America himself leads in with “So… you got detention?”
The scene has been integrated in the new meme culture for someone who did something wrong only to have Cap sitting in the chair coaching them through a “detention moment”.
That’s how Clemson’s entire fanbase is looking at every single person who picked NC State on Saturday. Josh Pate, Pick Six Previews, Pat McAfee, every “CFB” nonsensical account that has more than 20 followers, and the guy who thinks he’s cool when he puts graphics on Excel spreadsheets.
They all thought they were slick. They all thought they were smart. They spent months assuming that everything was coming to a crashing halt on Saturday night. Despite the fact that NC State had looked rather pedestrian for 4 straight games, they soldiered on and made their picks.
And now, here we are as a fanbase, turning the chair around, facing everyone, and asking, just like Captain America:
“So, you picked NC State to win outright?”
Vindication doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how it felt in postgame Saturday. I have never been happier for someone like DJ Uiagalelei than I was that night. He took all the frustration from 2021, all the doubt and ignorance of 2022, and put together a masterful performance on Saturday night. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he was a primary reason for winning the game on Saturday. And now he quietly gets back to work while saving his real redemption story for season’s end.
Vindication for the coordinators. After getting torched for what seemed like millions of passing yards a week ago, a combination of an emphatic Wake road win, a “coming of age” performance by the likes of Wiggins, Pride and Covil, and a ferocious pass rush made people understand that maybe, just maybe, Wes Godwin knows what he’s doing. OC Brandon Streeter put things together too. Sure, there was meat left on the proverbial chicken wing, and this offense is far from a finished product, but this was the best defense the Tigers have faced (and more than likely will all season) and they were able to direct nearly every facet of it. It was a team in complete control.
And lastly, vindication for Dabo. He stuck with his guys. People had all but tossed his program aside for newer, trendier names. And what happened? The Tigers delivered in front of a raucous crowd in a way that catapulted Clemson right back into the national conversation. Say it ain’t so.
But this team doesn’t seem satisfied. The NC State game was big opportunity to show that Clemson is still here, but it seems like a lot of people outside of the ACC are acting like this is more of “a nice little story” rather than a team that can contend at the end of the season. That is exactly why I think this team will continue on the mission- head down, coach up, and figure out a way to win each week.
Clemson football crushed Wolfpack dreams, solo cups and cigars Saturday
Lastly……can we all just soak in the feeling around the final few minutes of the game when the camera panned over for just a couple seconds on a deadpan, defeated, grumpy heap that was Dave Doeren (if I could find the clip I would put it right here). I’ve already said my piece about him earlier last week, but man what a difference a year makes. Last year he had a solo cup and a cigar, proclaiming that the curse was over. Now, as said by one of the NC State media, he realizes that “their basement is our ceiling.”
Let’s Go Tigers.