Clemson University

Tigers resolve not to repeat bowl history

For all the reasons Clemson would have to overlook its uninspiring bowl matchup, a sense of deja vu seems to have summoned a final rallying cry.

After getting over the hump and into the ACC title game, the senior class does not want to leave the legacy of those who also finished their careers against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

These seniors were redshirts or freshmen in 2006 when Clemson went through the motions in a sloppy 28-20 loss to the Wildcats that was far more indicting than the final score indicated.

There has been no need to point out that many of the same elements could be in play again.

"I remember not really understanding what they were going through," tight end Michael Palmer said. "It was my first bowl game, and I was excited. Now that I am a senior and we did lose in the ACC championship and had high expectations, I can understand what they went through."

But, Palmer is quick to insist, this is a different senior class and a different team.

In 2006, Clemson closed the season with a bigger thud. After routing Georgia Tech to climb to a No. 10 ranking and 4-1 ACC record, the Tigers were deflated by a Thursday night loss at Virginia Tech. That set the stage for middling Maryland to end Clemson's ACC title chances with a last-second upset in Death Valley. Two weeks later, a missed game-tying field goal against USC cemented the season's fall from grace.

"There were veterans who didn't want to be there for the bowl game," tight end Rendrick Taylor said. "Some guys were looking forward to their NFL future and weren't really focused on the game. A lot of guys were lackadaisical."

The general disinterest was compounded by the surroundings.

The weather was dreary and cold, with gray skies and temperatures in the low 30s. The Weather Channel's early forecast has Sunday's temperatures ranging from 27 to 38.

"We had so many aspirations and high hopes of going to the Orange Bowl and worked so hard preparing ourselves for a championship, and we fell short," Taylor said. "It took a little time to get over that when you have so many big dreams, and you let it slip through your hands. You naturally dwell on it.

"I think we still have it in the back of our minds. But we've had a couple of pretty good practices and morale is getting better. I feel like we're starting to really look forward to the game."

Palmer suggests this year's seniors - including C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Thomas Austin and Ricky Sapp - feel compelled to avoid a third straight loss that would stain the accomplishment of reaching the ACC championship.

Coach Dabo Swinney, an assistant on that 2006 squad, has played to those sensibilities.

"Certainly they're aware that we got embarrassed the last time we went there," Swinney said. "We weren't prepared to play and it was pretty obvious.

"It's one of our goals to win this game. You want to create momentum for your offseason. A bowl game is part of that. Everybody is going to finish. It's a choice on how you finish."

Extra points

It remains unclear whether freshman offensive lineman J.K. Jay will be available for non-contact work this spring, Swinney said. Jay's playing career has been jeopardized by a herniated disc that required a second surgery last month. Jay, who withdrew from school early in the fall while also dealing with pneumonia and the H1N1 virus, is slated to return to school for the spring semester, Swinney said. ... Defensive tackle Jamie Cumbie (root canal) returned to practice on a limited basis, while backup tight end Durrell Barry has been limited with a sprained neck.

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