This week in The Smoldering Ruin, we look back at the weekend in Tallahassee. Although there was some tension at the end, a Clemson football win in Doak Campbell is something we as fans don’t need to lose sight of.
I can remember every game in Tallahassee like it was yesterday.
I remember driving home from a school event with my oldest brother in 1998. He said “Let’s check on the Clemson game”, heard 10 seconds of Jim Phillips saying, “we’ll we wind down and it’s 48-0 Florida State”, responded “oof,” and promptly turned the radio off.
In 2000, I was already pre-deflated from the week prior’s inexplicable loss to Georgia Tech in the waning moments and I knew where this game would go. FSU delivered and the Tigers were rocked 54-7.
In 2002, I had to convince my parents to let me stay up past the 3rd quarter to watch the game which was (idiotically scheduled) on a Thursday night. I got to stay up just a few minutes to watch FSU salt away a 48-31 win.
In 2004, I had to find a radio at a neighbor’s house because we had a church get-together and I was (or at least I felt I was) the only avid Clemson fan there. The updates were scarce, so while I was celebrating Justin Miller’s 2nd kick return, Clemson was getting pummeled 41-22.
In 2006, it was the greatest weekend in my 16 years of living. My high school team had won the night before at Blacksburg. My parents were out of town, so I just watched football by myself all day, ate Taco Bell, and watched Clemson win for the 1st time in my life in Tally 27-20.
In 2008, I had kind of checked out on Clemson. Bowden had been fired, I had a car, and I was meeting a date at the Governor’s School. I was able to catch the end of the game on my drive home when Clemson lost 41-27.
In 2010, I sat in my (now ex) girlfriend’s house in the middle of a church party. I got to feel the absolute misery of having to experience Clemson lose on a 59-yard field goal, South Carolina winning the SEC east, and being around middle schoolers all at the same time.
In 2012, I thought I had witnessed the peak of Clemson’s rise. Jumping out to a 28-14 lead on a nationally televised game, just to fall short 49-37 yet again. We all sat in Katie Moon’s Berkley apartment in disappointment.
And in 2014, I met my now in-laws for one of the first times. Lord, bless my mother-in-law. My new girlfriend (now wife) thought she was slick trying to make me watch the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game, but her mother disapproved chiming in with “let him watch the dang Clemson game.” All of that was just to get them to see the wide range of emotions during one of the most gut-wrenching loses in Clemson history. “I am so sorry they lost” my mother in-law said. I am too, but at least you let me watch. You’re a saint, Nancy.
But then something happened. Clemson flipped the switch.
I could go on about the next 3. But the emotions were same. Elation in ’16 sitting in my brother-in-law’s house. Absolute satisfaction and an impromptu halftime trip to Taco Bell again in ’18. Anger over the game that wasn’t in 20, and then happiness this past Saturday.
You would have thought Clemson was playing Furman again on Saturday night given what happened. Yes, the team as a whole seemed to go into “coast” mode from around midway through the 3rd quarter on Saturday. There are definitely things that need to be fixed.
But at this point, seeing how this team has grown, how can you not at least expect to see that improvement going forward?
This season, at least for the 1st 7 games, has been a big, giant middle finger to those who believe winning is easy and would continue to be an easy task. That’s not how college athletics works. Even Alabama, the model of consistency for the last decade and a half, gave up the most points it had given up in a game since 1907. That’s not a typo. That is just how things happen.
So, the point of all this is, as I often try to bring everyone to, is this: Clemson has won 7 in a row against Florida (freaking) State. Clemson has won it’s last 3 (should be 4) in Doak Campbell. Can you honestly look me in the eye today and tell me you would believe that back in 2001, or 2004 or 2007. The answer is: No, you wouldn’t. And you’re either lying or were pulling for South Carolina back then if you said you would believe it.
For Clemson football fans it’s easy to take a win like Saturday for granted. Don’t.
Florida State has been the team we are chasing too many times. To me, Saturday night finally felt like a game that I never experienced. A “ho-hum, we gotta get better” performance IN TALLAHASSEE.
Clemson has become the hunted. The crown jewel. The team everyone is chasing.
I understand that fans want to keep it that way. And there will be a time when that criticism is justified. But right now, let’s have some perspective in this rivalry.
Florida State is always, and (at least to me) will always be, a win that we should highly value in the season.
No matter how they do it.
Onward to Syracuse.