After surviving hell, high water and Notre Dame, the notion of a so-called trap game against Georgia Tech seemed ludicrous for a team just beginning to attract the respect it craved.
Yet after jumping from 12 to 6 in last week’s polls, Clemson still can’t seem to shake the notion that it’s all an illusion, an apparition that’s going to vaporize and disappear.
After whipping Georgia Tech, 43-24, players and coaches were asked Saturday how they avoided a letdown after beating Notre Dame.
Eric Mac Lain laughed. Coach Dabo Swinney became angry.
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“That was a hell of a trap game,” said Mac Lain, the Clemson left guard and senior statesman.
“For us it was very silly,” said Mac Lain. “So I hope this game was a little bit of a statement that we’re not going to overlook anybody this season.”
Clemson’s 33rd consecutive win over an unranked team was thorough. Clemson led by 16 points after one quarter and 23 at the half. Georgia Tech entered the game averaging 320 rushing yards. Clemson limited the Yellow Jackets to 71, the lowest in Coach Paul Johnson’s tenure.
Sitting 5-0 with Boston College next, Clemson should be one of the game’s feel-good stories, perhaps creating even a brief distraction and a reason for Clemson fans around the state to smile despite the tragedy, the despair and the loss of lives and homes over the past week.
A reporter from ESPN asked Swinney about the notion of “Clemsoning,” a word created to describe a team that underperforms, and how his players respond to the word.
Swinney thought "Clemsoning" had been scrubbed from the board by those 33 wins over unranked teams, so his first reaction was that the question seemed “absurd” in the wake of what his team had just done.
His players don’t like the word, he said, and as he continued to speak, his voice rose until he was nearly shouting.
“I shouldn’t be asked that question,” he said. “This team has earned their respect. It shouldn’t be in the conversation.”
Swinney said he heard the word again Saturday during ESPN College Gameday.
“Same old bull crap,” he said, which is profane for Swinney. “This team has shown up. What else they got to do?”
“People need to quit talking about that. It’s like people trying to push their own agenda. If we lose this week, it isn’t because of ‘Clemsoning.’ We just got beat. We’re human.”
As Clemson makes the turn after next week’s game, a win over Boston College would likely place the Tigers on the fringe of the College Football Playoff conversation.
“We’re a football team that has earned everything they got,” Swinney said. “It’s a lack of respect for what those guys have done.
“This team doesn’t take a backseat to anybody,” he said. “It’s like everybody’s sitting around waiting on us to lose a game.
“That’s bull crap.”