Walker shocked with 2010 season

CLEMSON - Landon Walker believes there's been a serious change in culture since the Tigers' 2008 trip to Winston Salem, N.C.

The 12-7 Thursday night loss was the final game under head coach Tommy Bowden.

"Where we were then and where we are now, it's leagues above it," Walker said. "As a team, as an offensive line—anything you want to say, as coaches—anything. I don't know how to explain it, really. I don't think we were playing with any motivation, anything that we're playing now."

Since Dabo Swinney was named head coach nearly two years ago, Walker believes the Clemson program has made tremendous strides.

On Monday, Walker spoke with members of the media about where Clemson before Saturday's trip back to Winston Salem.

Below is an edited transcript of the interview:

How much did the loss to Florida State hurt?
Walker: It's definitely a bitter pill to swallow. We kind of had hope that we could still get into the championship. That kind of diminished. That's not going to happen. I think we all expected to win. We always do. Not winning that one hurt—something about it. As they were rushing the field and we were walking off, it hurt worse than a lot of them have this year. We played a lot of close games. I guess it all kind of piles up, because we've been there all year. For it to happen again, it's obviously frustrating. There wasn't a lot of talking.

Are you shocked that it's mid-November and you're not bowl eligible now?
Walker: I'm shocked. Going into this season, the way this team was playing in camp and the way we went through summer training together, I had nothing but high hopes. I told someone this yesterday, ‘When the best is not possible, you've got to make the best of what you've got left.' We've still got bowl eligibility on the line this week and a big game next week. As hard as it is to be disappointed and to be bitter about the whole situation, you've kind of got to look on and say we can still enjoy what's left and send these seniors out on a good note and carry some momentum into next year.

Can you put your finger on the red zone problems?
Walker: I can't. Saturday, we just caught some bad breaks. When [DeAndre Hopkins] fell down and there was the interception—that would have been a touchdown—no doubt, the way he was catching the ball all day. I had no doubt that if we threw it up to him, he was either going to get it or swat it away. That was a big missed opportunity. It's not anybody's fault, really. The play was called for him to jump up and get it. He fell down. Stuff like that happens and there's nothing really to explain it.

Your not in the crowd questioning why you guys didn't keep running the ball there?
Walker: No. Like I've told you guys before, never question the coaching, or any of that kind of stuff. Just do what I'm called upon to do, and that's run the play that's given. I don't know. It's frustrating that he did slip and it was an interception. We were knocking on the door all day. Just couldn't get it.

You said that you talk to coaches in game about what you think is working, who are you talking to on the sidelines?
Walker: Coach [Brad] Scott. Coach [Danny] Pearman. You kind of tell them. Sometimes they ask for our advice, and we think we can run it. They relay it up. It's not really a question of the coaching. It's just offering our help. We see the field out there better than anybody. To be able to tell them what we think we can do out there is a big thing. It's just like Kyle [Parker] getting on the headset and telling coach what he sees. We do the same thing with coach Scott.

How did the line play this week?
Walker: Especially the way things have been going the last couple of weeks, it felt good to come into Florida State and do what we did, especially what we did with the No. 1 pass rushing team in the nation. Just to be able to hold those guys says a lot about the guys we have up front and the character that we have. The way we were able to do it, I don't think Kyle fell down one time on Saturday night. That says something about us up front and what we did.

You were 3-3 after the 2008 Wake Forest game. You're 5-5 now. You look at raw numbers and might say they're not as good.
Walker: I think, from an outsider's view—someone just looking at the records, it's someone not really seeing what's going on with the team. They'd probably say this coach isn't getting it done. The players don't care. When it comes down to the bottom line, whether we win or lose, we've showed up on Monday and started on the next team. As hard as it is to forget about this game—it hurts for all of us…Something you learn as you grow up, when things don't go as they're supposed to, or as you expect them to, you've just got to move on. Better things are in this team's future. I know that from a fact. If there's anything we can take from this year and to finish on a good note going into next year, it's to be able to understand the fact that tiny, small mistakes make the biggest difference in a game.

As a player, are you in kind of a bubble, when it comes to outside perceptions?
Walker: I think that I'm partially in the bubble and I'm partially outside the bubble. I feel like, after the game, I'm totally out of it. You're so down about what happened, especially after a loss. For instance, going on Facebook and looking at everybody's statuses, it's unbelievable how many people abandon ship when things start going wrong. Putting myself in that situation, I don't know what I would do. From a player's perspective, it's not easy seeing fans say [negative things].

Do you get on message boards?
Walker: I do. It is what it is. Fans are going to be fans. At any program, you're going to have most of them that support you, no matter what happens. Then, you're going to have those fans, when things are going right they're going to be right with you. As soon as things start going bad, they're going to be the first ones to throw you under the bus.

Knowing that you've been so close with the losses, is it difficult to handle the criticism?
Walker: I don't even want to think about how many points it is for us to be 10-0. I'm sure it's pretty reasonably close. No matter what happens, I've always been an optimistic person about this team, what we have to offer and we do. I feel like we're doing all the right things. I feel coach Swinney does a good job of saying that every week. We are. We show up. I feel like we've got everybody preparing the right way and doing everything they can do to just win a game. The only thing I can say about it, it's frustrating when you can just as easily be 10-0 as you can be 5-5. When you can easily say you can be 10-0, there's not much there that you're doing wrong. Obviously, we're not perfect. It's just something you take away from it. People can say whatever they want. Most people might look at it like we're not good enough to be 10-0. I know that we're good enough. It's just a matter of those minor things that have kept us from winning those close ones.

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