Statement game

CLEMSON - There were plenty of long faces around the Clemson campus last week.

For good reason, too.

Losers of three of their last four games of the season, the Tigers were on a slide. And to rub salt on the wound, one of those was to rival South Carolina -- No. 3 in a row.

Corico Hawkins noticed that the mood had quickly changed after Clemson's ACC title winning trip to Charlotte.

"It was a lot of congratulations and a lot of smiles. We had to get some of those smiles back because everybody was mad at us because of South Carolina," he said. "It kind of put everything in a better perspective around campus."

In danger of dropping No. 3 in a row on the season, losing was not an option.

"We did whatever we had to do to get it. It was like, what would you do if you couldn't breathe? We had that mentality going into the football game and we came out successful," Hawkins said.

Clemson handed Virginia Tech a 38-10 loss. It was the fewest points given up since the 14-spot Boston College scored in October.

"Basically, we knew the regular season was over. That was done -- 9-3, that is over," Hawkins said. "We have an opportunity in front of us that we had my freshman year, coming off the same type of season. We lost to South Carolina going into the ACC Championship."

Two days after the loss to the Gamecocks, Dabo Swinney led a 2.5 hour team meeting on Monday. That was as emotional as Hawkins has seen Swinney, who isn't shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve.

"He was fired up about it," Hawkins said.

The linebacker couldn't blame his head coach for being so passionate during the meeting.

"As a head coach, just considering the things that he's done for us as a program, done for Clemson University, bringing the right guys here; if we weren't holding up our end of the deal, I would be fired up, too," Hawkins said. "It put in perspective so everybody could see it."

It was that meeting that helped propel Clemson to its first ACC Championship in 20 years. Because of the win, they'll play West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

"They're fast," Hawkins said. "A lot of people think that Sammy is fast. They've got a bunch of fast guys on their offense. We'll have our hands full. When they go to turn up the tempo, we'll have our hands full."

And it's exactly what they wanted. Top Stories