Clemson University

What a difference 3 weeks makes for Tigers

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.

TALK IS CHEAP BUT victories like Saturday's make teams rich.

It was 21 days ago in Maryland that Clemson seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

Its fans were finding other things to do, its chances of winning the Atlantic Division championship first-year coach Dabo Swinney set as a team goals were as dark as a moonless night.

Hard to imagine this is the same team, but the Tigers just won the kind of game big-time programs win, on the road against No. 8 Miami.

A 40-37 overtime victory can change things for teams with a sense of maturity, and this was one of those days when Clemson fit that profile.

For a game that started out with a scoreless first quarter, it quickly turned into something reminiscent of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, where each round ended when one of the plastic combatants got his head knocked off.

It was one of those games that might earn the ESPN 'Instant Classic' distinction because it was not a matter of two teams falling over each other, it was two teams that took their best shots and kept battling.

"That," said Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, "is what you gotta do to be a good football team. There will be some you fight to the death and win 13-10 and there will be others like this that you have to fight to the death and win, I don't even know what the score was."

He was told it was 40-37.

"No kiddin" Steele said. "Man, that's a lot of points."

It took a winning pass by Kyle Parker in overtime you could describe as being drawn up in the dirt, except there isn't any dirt on the sidelines. Instead, throughout the game, senior Jacoby Ford noticed Miami free safety Vaughn Telemaque, a redshirt freshman, was drifting toward the sidelines in many of his coverages.

Ford passed along the idea that if Telemaque drifted on third-and-10 from the 25 in overtime, he might be able to score if he cut his route to the goalpost instead of the sideline.

That's exactly what happened, Parker's pass was on target and the home fans, rocking with energy as the play started, fell silent.

Each quarterback cost his team plays here and there and Clemson's DeAndre McDaniel - the national leader with seven interceptions - was able to score a touchdown when he picked off a pass, just as Miami's Marcus Robinson scored on a fumble return.

In all the celebration, something Swinney has been saying for weeks, even after the loss at Maryland, sounded like prophecy.

"I've been telling them we don't have to be perfect to win, even against the best teams," Swinney said. "We're good enough to win because of the talent we have."

Randy Shannon would agree.

Clemson is in in the driver's seat to win the Atlantic Division.

And once again in Tiger Nation, they're all in.

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