CLEMSON – Could Friday night’s loss at Syracuse turn out to be a positive for the Clemson football team?
To a man, the Tigers are counting on as much.
“I think the loss helped us, as weird as that sounds,” wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said.
And how did it help?
“You start to look at the little things that you’ve done and the little things you’ve gotten away from at the start of the season because you’ve had success,” Renfrow said. “It allows you to internally evaluate yourself and get back on the right track.”
Renfrow and his teammates are in the midst of a two-week self-analysis – thanks to a bye week, Clemson doesn’t return to action until Oct. 28 when the Tigers host Georgia Tech.
“It has come at a great time,” said defensive end Austin Bryant. “We get to catch our breath, get our feet back under us. It’s going to be very beneficial.
“I don’t see any anger. I just see guys who are anxious to get back at it. We lost and we’ve got to get over it; we’re big boys. Things happen. It’s all about what happens next.”
The Tigers, who are 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, slipped from a No. 2 national ranking to No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, in the Associated Press and coaches polls on Sunday.
But the Tigers don’t have to dig too far back in their collective memory banks for an inspiring precedent. Clemson got a late-season wake-up call courtesy of a one-point loss to underdog Pittsburgh last year, then proceeded to reel off five consecutive victories en route to the ACC and national titles.
“We have to remember who we are and know that we have a proven way to win a national championship, a proven way to get there,” Renfrow said. “But we’ve got to do it ourselves. We have to respond the right way for this team. Last year’s team responded the right way; now we’ve got to finish well. We can’t rest on last year’s laurels and take for granted that we’re going to respond the right way, we’ve got to make sure that we do.”
Despite five games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Tigers have precious few resume-building opportunities remaining. N.C. State, which sits atop the ACC’s Atlantic Division at 4-0, is the lone ranked opponent left on the Tigers’ schedule, so the Tigers must close with a flourish to bolster hopes of a repeat.
“I think Coach (Dabo) Swinney said it best: Just don’t forget who we are,” Renfrow said. “We’re a team and a program that has won 37 of its last 40 games. Let’s not think that we’re not going to win these close games anymore just because we lost to Syracuse in a close game.”
“Nobody is in a sad or bad mood,” Bryant said. “The story is not how we lost to Syracuse, the story is going to be how we respond to that loss. Everybody’s looking forward to getting back to what we do.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News