Changing the culture

CLEMSON - As unlikely as it may have seemed two months ago, Clemson's first 8-0 start in over a decade had fans and players alike thinking of the ultimate prize.

A second shot at the national championship hadn't been in the cards this late in a long time. Karma from the 30-year anniversary of Clemson's first title was kicking into gear.

The only thing that stood between Clemson moving to 9-0 and inching closer to a potential berth in the national championship game was a date with Georgia Tech, just like 11 years ago.

Fate kicked karma's butt.

"The pain is still lingering," Dalton Freeman said of the 31-17 loss on Saturday, which knocked Clemson from No. 5 in the BCS to No. 11.

"That's something that never needs to escape us, but we're moving on. Everything is still in front of us. We still have all our goals that can be attained and achieved. That's what we're going to do."

It's what he expects. The Clemson faithful demands it.

Freeman saw the expectations climbing towards fever pitch. That's what the first 8-0 start since 2000 will do. At a program like Clemson, which hasn't seen an ACC title since 1990 or a national championship since 1981, that kind of success is always in high demand.

And last year's 6-7 record was the first losing season since 1998. It was nowhere near rock bottom, for some, it was way too close for comfort.

"Our fans live and die with us," Freeman said." Last year, after a few losses, we kind of walked around campus. Nothing was said -- they kind of expected us to lose. That pissed me off more than anything.

"This year, we're 8-0 and they act like the world's coming to an end because we lost one game."

So be it.

"People should expect us to win. That's what Clemson does," he said.

Freeman wants the stakes to be high.

"That just goes to show you that the culture at Clemson is changing," he said.

A win against Wake Forest on Nov. 12 would clinch Clemson's second Atlantic Division title since 2009, when Freeman was a redshirt freshman.

The division crown is second on the list of five team goals for each season. After two weeks of marinating on the first loss in 2011, you can bet they'll be ready to lock up goal No. 2.

"For us, we're four quarters away from securing our division for the second time in three years, at home, in Death Valley, on Senior Day," Freeman said. "It's all you can ask for. If our guys can't get fired up for this, something's wrong." Top Stories