The following story appeared in the April issue of CUTigers The Magazine. Learn more about the top monthly magazine covering Clemson sports by clicking here!
Not only will expectations be raised simply because this is the fifth full year of the Tommy Bowden regime, but most people around these parts are just ready for something to cheer about.
The last two seasons have been anything but normal in Tiger Town. Following a dismal upset loss to the Virginia Cavaliers in 2001, the Tigers would rebound to defeat nationally ranked Georgia Tech and N.C. State in back-to-back road wins, only to see the season be destroyed in an unimaginable 38-3 Homecoming loss to North Carolina.
2002 was almost a carbon copy of the previous year, as the Tigers defeated a tough Georgia Tech team, only to get whitewashed by N.C. State, Maryland, and Florida State in the middle half of the season.
After suffering through two roller coaster years, the Tigers found themselves in chilly Boise, Idaho on New Year's Eve of 2001, and in Orlando, Florida just two days before Christmas in 2002.
While the Tangerine Bowl game against a Big XII opponent held considerable more interest than a 3,000 mile hike to a state best known for potatoes, most fans would concur that the fiasco that was witnessed in a 45-point blowout to Texas Tech was one of the absolute lowest points in Clemson football history.
That being said, why can't the postseason just work out for once for Clemson?
Why can't the Tigers go to a good bowl game in Florida and beat a quality opponent to give us fans a serious cause for optimism in the offseason?
While the Humanitarian Bowl win over Louisiana Tech was nice, it certainly wouldn't compare to a New Year's Day victory over a team like Michigan or Tennessee.
In fact, if you think about each of the last 9 bowl appearances by Clemson, there hasn't been a whole lot to cheer about.
Following a narrow 1-point win over Kentucky in the 1993 Peach Bowl, the Tigers would go on to lose close games to LSU, Auburn, and Mississippi State in Atlanta. Unfortunately, those games were sandwiched between blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse in the Gator Bowl.
The fact remains that the two losses in Jacksonville had to do with the Tigers simply being overmatched by a better team. Syracuse would feature two future All-Pro players in the NFL in quarterback Donovan McNabb and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, and Virginia Tech had Michael Vick and a defense that simply dominated everyone in those days.
The 3 close losses in Atlanta were exactly that- close losses.
Clemson used a dominating defense to hold a nationally ranked LSU team in check before falling 10-7. The next year, the Tigers would ride the strength of two block punts for a lead over Auburn before falling in the fourth quarter, and then Clemson lost to Mississippi State in Tommy Bowden's first year when the Bulldogs were also close to competing for a BCS berth.
The Tangerine Bowl however, was nothing short of a debacle.
"It's not like the other bowl games when we played a 10-win Mississippi State team or a 10-win Virginia Tech team," said Tommy Bowden. "We were kind of overmatched in those games. Texas Tech was a good team, but it was a team we were equally matched with from a talent standpoint."
The bottom line here is that Clemson just hasn't had good luck when it comes to bowl games. That goes for the Peach Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Tangerine Bowl, and even the Bowden Bowl. For whatever reason, the Tigers have simply struggled once they get to the postseason.
In fact, you have to go all the way back January 1st, 1991, all the way back to the Ken Hatfield era, to find a quality bowl win. That was the year that the Tigers promptly took care of business against Illinois to the tune of 30-0.
Since then, it's been all down hill for Clemson fans.
While this isn't necessarily meant to preach gloom and doom for the football program, my point is this: the Tigers are due to put it all together sometime soon. And I'm not talking about just a good season with a couple of mediocre wins and a decent showing in the postseason.
I'm talking about a great year, with a couple of great wins, against some great teams. Most importantly, one of those wins has to come in the postseason, preferably somewhere in Florida, preferably on New Year's Day.
And when the Tigers finally make it there, and they will make it there by the way, the postseason suffering that Clemson fans have gone though in the last 10 years will only make that next big win that much sweeter.
Searching for that Quality Win
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