Oh Yes, It's a Big One

Like it or not, Saturday's game in Charlottesville represents the biggest game of the year for the Clemson Tigers. A win keeps the goals of this team intact for another a week, while a loss brings back the painful memories of a year ago.

The scene will remain etched in almost all of our minds forever. Billy McMullen with the ever so slight push off on Brian Mance in the corner of the endzone last year in Death Valley.

As McMullen scored that game-winning touchdown, and the Cavaliers celebrated an improbable upset, you could just feel the momentum of the 2001 season come to a crashing halt. Talks of an ACC Championship and a 10-win season changed to hotel reservations in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl.

Oh to have been so lucky. Who knew at the time that a December trip to the Georgia Dome would have been the equivalent to a BCS Bowl when compared to the snowy hills of Boise, Idaho.

Saturday afternoon is what I like to think of as the first of four payback games for the Tigers, but more importantly, it's the first step in reaching some of the goals established by the team and the coaching staff during the offseason.

"For us it's a 7-game season. We've got 7 games left and we need to win all of them. It's time for us to turn the tables. They came into our house and won last season, now it's our turn. We want revenge." said LB John Leake.

Revenge was on the mind of a lot of Tigers this week, but perhaps no one else looks forward to this game more than Jackie Robinson. Robinson not only experienced his first loss to Virginia during his Clemson career last season, he also took a hit from one of the Wahoos that he'll never be able to forget.

"The Virginia game is when I broke my jaw last season," Robinson said. "I just turned around and took a shot in the mouth. It was a clean hit, but I'm ready for some payback. We really can't wait to get back on the field to erase that loss and get another opportunity to get a victory."

Willie Simmons went as far to say as this game was the most important game of his career. "Everything that we have riding on the season rides on this game," Simmons said.

"It's important for us to continue to go out there and improve, but most importantly we need a win. We still have a chance to be at or near the top of the conference this year and we feel good about our chances for the rest of the season. But at the same time we know this is a game we have to have."

Head Coach Tommy Bowden has taken the same approach, consistently telling his team that this game will be one of the most important games of the Bowden era. "Without question, it's the biggest game we'll play this year," Bowden said. "We're sitting right now at 3-2 and we need to go up there and win the game."

Make no mistake about it, the Cavaliers have the talent to pull a repeat performance this year. Coming off a top 10 recruiting class and 4 consecutive victories, head coach Al Groh has his team believing they can beat just about anybody.

Just ask the South Carolina Gamecocks, who left Charlottesville with their first loss of the year, a 34-21 loss in the second week of the season.

After waiting more than a year for a rematch, the Tigers will finally get their chance for redemption at Scott Stadium Saturday afternoon against the Virginia Cavaliers.

"I've said this before, but I want to be in the same situation like I was against Virginia last year because I know this time around I'm not give up seven points," said Brian Mance.

Mance will get his wish, as senior wide receiver Billy McMullen will likely line up against him for most of the afternoon. With the Tigers' season on the line, let's just hope history doesn't repeat itself.

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