CLEMSON - The bitterness seethed from Clemson lineman Thomas Austin as he watched television that afternoon.
It was the first Saturday in December 2007, the day of the ACC championship.
Two weeks earlier, the Tigers had been on the brink of winning the Atlantic Division - only for Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan to throw a remarkable touchdown pass with 1:46 left to give the Eagles the lead. Clemson missed two chances to win or tie in the final minute, and Boston College punched its ticket to Jacksonville, Fla.
As Austin hung out withteammates the night before last week's victory against N.C. State, they struggled to come to grips with the opportunity at hand.
"To be honest, it was hard for us to chew on," Austin said.
As one player told the team before last week's game, there is no way the younger players can appreciate what many of the Tigers have endured in getting to this point: a victory against Virginia away from clinching the division crown and advancing to the Dec. 5 ACC title game against No. 7 Georgia Tech in Tampa, Fla.
It is not nearly the satisfaction bringing home Clemson's first ACC title since 1991 could render. But the elusive division crown, which the Tigers have failed to land since the ACC went to the split division format four years ago, had marked the standard by which their years were measured.
For 15 recruited scholarship seniors - nine of whom are starters - their final home game in Death Valley represents vindication and validation, the chance to "get over the hump" on their own accord.
"To truly appreciate where you are, you have to have gone through some tough losses and things like that," tight end Michael Palmer said. "So it really makes it special for the seniors to be in the position we're at right now.
"Sometimes you have to go through the valleys to get to the mountain top. And we've definitely done that."
As evidenced by the variety of answers seniors gave for which loss was the toughest during their career.
There was the loss to Boston College. There were consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Maryland that deflated the 2006 season; the anemic early loss to Georgia Tech in 2007 that proved costly in the end; and the trio of humiliating 2008 defeats to Alabama, Maryland and Wake Forest.
All of which led to Tommy Bowden's resignation last October, leaving what coach Dabo Swinney has described as a fragile, divided team.
"The day we changed coaches - no program in America wants to go through that, especially players," senior running back C.J. Spiller said. "But we hired the right guy. Coach of the Year, right here."
While today's outcome figures to shape perception of Swinney's unconventional promotion - at least for the short term - it stands as the defining moment for numerous players' careers.
Unless, of course, the Tigers finally take the next step.
"I couldn't think of a better ending," receiver Jacoby Ford said. "If we wanted to go out with a bang, this is the way to go. You couldn't script it up any better than this."