You Gotta Believe

CLEMSON - Defensive tackle Jock McKissic can't wait to talk to Jeff Davis. He can't wait to see how excited he will get when he gets the opportunity to talk about what it was like at Clemson and for his football team when the Tigers last faced Nebraska on the football field.

McKissic and the Tigers can officially begin looking forward to the showdown with Nebraska after the Gator Bowl Association officially extended Clemson an offer Wednesday to play in the 64th Annual Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year's Day.

"I haven't talked to Jeff, but I can't wait to see how he feels about it," McKissic said.

Of course Davis, who now serves as the Tigers' director of player relations, was an All-America linebacker for Clemson the last time it faced the Cornhuskers in the 1982 Orange Bowl in Miami. That's the night the Tigers clinched their only national championship with a 22-15 victory.

Though Nebraska will not officially be named Clemson's opponent for the Gator Bowl until Monday, McKissic says the anticipation for the matchup has already begun.

"We are excited about playing these boys," the senior said. "Coming to Clemson, you hear about 1981 and that's who they faced so I feel like a lot of people are going to be excited about this game, especially the players in the past.

"This is going to be a good game and I can't wait to play in it."

This time last week just the thought of Clemson playing in such a prestigious bowl game on New Year's Day seemed near impossible. In fact no one even thought about it.

The Tigers (7-5) needed to beat South Carolina just to become bowl eligible. Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips even admitted Wednesday he never thought about the possibility of his school playing in the Gator Bowl until Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett called him up Tuesday.

"He called me up and asked me if we would be interested in coming to Jacksonville and it didn't take much for me to say yes," Phillips said.

Clemson's players are still in shock about how fast it all went down.

"Last Friday, and even a couple of weeks, ago, I said any bowl game we could get to, we would take it," Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper said. "But now we have the opportunity to play on New Year's Day. That's something several weeks ago nobody would have thought possible."

Especially when the Tigers were 3-4 and needed four wins in their last five games just to become bowl eligible.

"A lot of people counted us down and out," Harper said. "But we bought into what Coach (Dabo) Swinney was doing and we got behind what he was saying. We just continued to work hard week in and week out, and the hard work paid off for us in the end."

For running back C.J. Spiller, who is from nearby Lake Butler, playing in the Gator Bowl gives him another opportunity to play in front of his friends and family one more time.

"God works in mysterious ways," the junior said. "I'm looking forward to going down there and playing in front of the home crowd. For those that didn't make it to the Florida State game, this gives them another opportunity to watch not only me, but my teammates and see what kind of team that we have."

Obviously it's a team the Gator Bowl thought was good enough and deserving enough to play in their New Year's Day game. Top Stories