Year ends and begins on sour note for Clemson

— Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Should old losses be forgot?

As 2007 eased into 2008, the Clemson Tigers were hoping to ring in the new year in style.

Instead, they got their bell rung in overtime.

Four sips of bitter wine led to bitter whines from fans who wanted more.

Before the season, there were modest expectations in Death Valley, and many people agreed that an eight-victory campaign would be a pretty good season considering some of the rebuilding coach Tommy Bowden and his staff had to do.

But a 4-0 start had folks thinking maybe Clemson was ahead of the curve, and the BCS Summer touted a year earlier might actually arrive a year late.

But 94 days ago, the Tigers went to Atlanta, left their offense back in Pickens County, and five missed field-goal attempts later were 13-3 losers to a mediocre Georgia Tech team in one of the ugliest football games ever played.

Then 87 days ago, the Clemson special teams were broken down by the Virginia Tech Hokies, whose 41-23 victory was far more lopsided than the score would indicate.

Just ask the fans who emptied the stadium before halftime.

But a 4-2 record would improve to 8-2, and Bowden’s charges found themselves playing for a spot in the ACC championship game when Boston College came to Memorial Stadium on Nov. 17.

A dropped pass dropped the ledger to 8-3 with a 20-17 defeat, leaving South Carolina and Monday’s consolation prize, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, to define the season.

The showdown with the Gamecocks was a thriller, as Clemson came-from-ahead to get behind the 8 ball, then topped its rival 23-21 on a last-second field goal.

By the time the ACC Tigers pulled on their white shirts and purple pants and took on the felines from Auburn, it was almost as though the 2008 preseason had begun.

All three regular-season losses hurt, but just as 2007 gave way to 2008, those setbacks were relegated to history.

This was a preview of the new year — coming in a game that ended just minutes before a new year began.

Unfortunately for Bowden and company, the same city in which they lost their first game of 2007 was the city that featured their final defeat in 2007.

Looking back a 9-4 worksheet is nothing to fret over in a season that featured more oddities than a state fair sideshow. And a Chick-fil-A Bowl championship trophy wouldn’t compare to the hardware that comes with an ACC crown — or the one that either LSU or Ohio State will lug home Jan. 7 — anyway.

Still, let auld losses be forgot.

The Clemson Tigers did what every other opponent of an SEC team has done this bowl season: They lost.

It was not a great way for Clemson to end 2007 or a great way to start 2008.

But there’s always next year — which, by the way, is already here.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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