This week in The Smoldering Ruin, we take a look back at an eventful Homecoming weekend for Clemson football. Everyone got to come see the always exciting pre and postgame activities and one heck of a game on Saturday. Naturally, the haters have come out for Homecoming week too. As many times as this has happened in the past, I have got to ask: You thought they had us, didn’t you?
The Tigers win yet another close game against a coach and team that no matter what, will always, somehow, be prepared to take Clemson to the wire. I don’t know what pagan ritual Dino Babers does before the Clemson game, but man, it almost worked again. Secretly, I want him not to work out at Syracuse, not because I don’t like him, but because I want Babers on Clemson’s staff in some capacity.
Naturally, much like last week, a close Clemson win equals a loss in the court of public opinion. This week joining the chorus of internal meddling Clemson “fans” are the melodies of the national media members. The same people who had been vehemently quieted over the last 7 weeks for leaving Clemson for dead after the ’21 season have now found a newly rekindled fire that will be used against the Tigers for the remainder of 2022.
What is that you might ask?
“Clemson’s QB controversy, you unintelligible shabbaroon” is their likely response.
To the untrained eye, this is indeed a controversy. The general public clamored for change this season; there were predictions and prognostications that there was no way that DJ Uiagalelei would make it past week (insert number here) before he was replaced by the younger option at QB.
To be fair to those people, DJ did not play remotely close to the level that he has been for the past 4-5 weeks prior to Saturday. His 2 interceptions and a catastrophic fumble were essentially the main reason The Orange were in the game in the first place. A spark was indeed needed…. for that particular day. Enter Cade Klubnik
But most people (outside of a handful of very observant fans) didn’t notice what was said and done in the post-game. Recruits made mention to the media of how unique it was to see a locker room praise Cade for leading the comeback, but also rally and lift up a guy like DJ, a team leader who had a rough day.
Did you listen to DJ in postgame? I would recommend you find the video. It’s mind blowing. The kid is absolutely wise beyond his years. He thanked Coach Swinney…..for taking him out of the game! And while it seems like that might be a staged answer, go back and watch. He’s saying all of this on his own volition.
Culture and character were on full display in the Clemson football locker room after the Syracuse game
It is rare to find that type of humility. I would not be as gracious; I’d be willing to bet that I would be a moody, angry 20-something year old that cared more about the opportunity for my time in the sun than actually winning the game. His response speaks volumes to DJ’s character, and a large (if not the largest reason) Clemson won Saturday: Clemson’s culture.
Culture tends to get lost to casual fans who just look at box scores and star rankings in recruiting. Look, those things are well and good, and they can provide a lot of information. But culture is the reason why Clemson was able to rally from 11 down on Saturday and from 10 down in the same exact spot 4 years ago. Culture is the reason why Clemson didn’t finish 4-8 last year and instead found ways to win 10 games (something I still hold over Morgan Thomas’s head.)
Culture creates buy in. Buy in inspires care. Care fosters drive. Drive finds a way.
And when you’re able to maximize that, you get the results from Saturday. So while the rest of the College Football world collectively scoffs and shares their true feelings of “praying for Clemson to slip up” (that’s an actual quote from a “media” member), Clemson got a much-needed win with its culture. I think this game came at the perfect time, just like the upcoming bye week.
In the meantime, enjoy the week off.