As I walked slowly down the steps of Death Valley last Saturday night, I couldn't help but chuckle a little at the sight I saw. There they were, two tickets ripped into four pieces, two pieces were placed directly over the "1" in row CC and the other two over seat 3. Obviously this fan had enough football for a while and we probably won't have the privledge of seeing his face in Death Valley for quite some time.
Fans can be quite fickle.
Heck, I know the feeling. I remember when Virginia receiver Billy McMullen pushed off Clemson corner Brian Mance to win in Death Valley back in 2001, and I had to have friends and family beg me to be in Atlanta the next week to see the 47-44 overtime thriller, a game that I still believe to be the most exciting game I've ever personally attended.
That's the reason why I've decided to pack up my bags, load up the car and drive to College Station this week. That's 36 hours of driving for a 3-hour football game. Crazy you say? It might be, but it should also be worth it!
You see Clemson fans have been moping around this week complaining about this and that to no avail, when in reality they should be exstatic about the prospects of this coming Saturday's game against Texas A&M. Why? Because if history proves true, this week's game is going to be one for the history books. You see, in recent years when the Tigers have a devastating loss they usually follow it up with a game that you will be telling your grandchildren about.
The more devastating the loss, the bigger the treat for loyal Tigers in the following week. Let's take a look at how the Tigers have performed after the most humiliating losses since 2000.
Devastating Loss: (Florida State 54 Clemson 7) After such a promising start to the 2000 season, the Tigers rolled into Tallahassee with a 6-1 ACC mark and a chance to take the ACC title for the first time in 10 years. What happened that night almost had me leave Doak Campbell Stadium before 4 quarters of football were over. The result was 54-7 thrashing at the hands of the Seminoles and a play that was as demorilizing as the result itself. Then FSU quarterback Chris Weinke held the ball in the back of his own end zone with his back to the defense for what seemed like 10 seconds, while receiver Snoop Minus ran up the sideline wide open. The Tiger defense was sold on the fake and every fan in Doak Campbell knew what the result of the play would be even before Weinke turned around to see his wide open receiver.
RedemptionM: (The Catch II: Clemson 16 USC 14) Fan meltdown began after the crushing defeat. There wasn't much incentive to go see a team whose defense looked like swiss cheese, but the next week Tiger fans were treated to what might be the most exciting finish to any Clemson-South Carolina game since the start of the rivalry. The last drive had plenty of dramatics, including a 60 yard bomb, an outstanding catch and a freshmen kicker coming through with his first meaningful field goal in his career. A 16-14 thriller!
Devastating Loss: (Virginia 26 Clemson 24) Even as Virginia drove down the field with their young quarterback Bryson Spinner, it never seemed the game was in doubt. The Tigers had outplayed them all day and would surely come out of this one with a victory. And they should have, if it weren't for a blown call after Virginia receiver Billy McMullen threw Brian Mance off him and made a touchdown catch as time expired. Everyone in the stadium looked around for the flag that would had made it 3rd and goal from the 15 instead of a 34-31 victory for the Cavaliers. The flag never came.
Redemption: (Georgia Tech 47-44) Tech was ranked #9 in the country and only the most optimistic Tiger fans ever thought the Tigers had a chance to win in Atlanta. But Tigers fans who went to the game got to see the greatest performance Woody Dantzler ever had in a Tiger uniform. The final result was a six-point overtime victory that went back and forth from kickoff to Woody's winning run in overtime. Clemson fans will always remember the call, "McKelvey…..Touchdown!".
Devastating Loss: (N.C. State 38 Clemson 6) The whole ESPN Thursday night jinx came to a head in 2002 as fans packed Death Valley to pull their Tiger team to a victory over a tough NC State team. The Tiger fans cheered loudly, but the victory never came. Instead they witnessed one of the sloppiest games ever played by the Tigers on their home turf. Even the loan Tiger touchdown was a ball Justin Miller picked up after Derrick Hamilton muffed a kickoff, and then the Tigers couldn't even score the extra point as they went on to a 38-6 humiliation.
Redemption: (Clemson 34 Duke 31) Only the most loyal of loyal Clemson fans could stand to make the trip to Durham to see their Tigers play the Duke Blue Devils. For those that did, they were rewarded with not only a 4th quarter comeback from a 24-10 deficit, but also they witnessed the coming out party for Charlie Whitehurst who broke 2 Clemson passing records including the first 4 touchdown pass performance by a Clemson freshmen.
Devastating Loss: (Wake Forest 45 Clemson 17) Tommy Bowden still claims this is his worst loss of his career (more reason for a huge win the next week). The wheels came off for the Tigers in a game that was out of hand before halftime. It was so bad that even Wake Forest fans mocked the Tiger team and coach as they chanted, "Fire Bowden" throughout the 4th quarter.
Redemption: (Clemson 26 Florida State 10) What a way to answer the worst loss of your career. On this night Clemson would beat it's highest ranked opponent in school history. Not only that, but son Tommy had his job security back at father Bobby's expense. The crowd noise, the game, and the celebration that followed will never be forgotten by those who were there.
Devestating Loss: (Georgia Tech 28 Clemson 24) The many who walked away from this sellout commented on feeling physically sick over what transpired in the last 90 seconds of regulation. Even Tech coach Chan Gailey said that he had never been involved in a game like this one, nor did he think he would be again.
See you in Texas!
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