This week in the 2nd to the last edition of “The Smoldering Ruin” we take a look back at an unexpectedly incredibly positive result for Clemson football in Charlotte this past weekend. The energy was low going into Saturday, but all of a sudden, there has been a change in posture.
Two offensive drives in, and I was finished.
I had conceded that Clemson was going to roll with DJ and we had to just hope that the Clemson defense (who looked shaky to begin with) could finally figure it out. Clemson started with 3 straight passes, and the 1st one was in the dirt.
You could feel the collective “ugh” on the 1st play.
A buddy texted me from the game saying Cade was warming up. I didn’t believe him. But low and behold he was in on the 3rd drive. I had very little faith in the playcalling. After all, this was the same staff that put him in a bind on his only drive in South Bend.
But as soon as he completed his first pass, there was a spark. He completed a downfield pass. He threw a touchdown. He threw an absolute nuke to a redshirt receiver that had yet to see much action. From that point on, Clemson looked like……well Clemson again.
The scoreboard at the end of the night read 39-10 but for the 1st time in nearly 2 years, Clemson got to see a 3rd string QB play against P5 competition. Where had this been all season? Why wait until now?
Like most of you, I frustratedly asked those questions during and after the game. It was a coaching blunder, no doubt about that. But even though it came a week too late, it came anyway and brought with it a rejuvenated feeling of optimism in the program that hasn’t been there since Trevor Lawrence left.
The Orange Bowl now becomes a litmus test for 2023, not in the sense that it’s another referendum on the program, but more of a chance to see where Clemson’s young studs stand against an SEC team. It also gives us a chance to see what tweaks need to be made in the offseason now that Clemson seems to have found a quarterback that is a legitimate threat.
As a fan, it was hard for me to emotionally invest in watching the game Saturday after what we witnessed against South Carolina, but now I can’t help but reopen that tall bottle of hope that I had closed off and put in the fridge.
Post Orange Bowl, Clemson football will have many intriguing storylines headed into the offseason
This hope pairs with the intriguing storylines we can expect in the off-season. Who will Clemson get out of the portal (there is a need, it’s a matter of “who” not “will they”)? Will there be any staff changes or turnover? Will legislation pass that will allow for more on-field staff and will Clemson utilize that?
At this time last week, I had all but dismissed these questions with a negative post-Palmetto Bowl loss pessimistic mindset that has now been slowly filled with some hopeful optimism and….dare I say, excitement.
In the 1st 2 Orange bowls under Dabo, I was ill because of a previous loss to the Gamecocks and not seeing what foundation was being laid. However, this time I can’t help but to watch with a little more energy fueled by the idea that these young stars have a chance to take the world by storm in 2023.
Onward, to Miami