For strong finish, Clemson must snap Thursday night hex

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks to an official on the sideline against Virginia Tech.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks to an official on the sideline against Virginia Tech.

Pressure on VT, short turnaround

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— Saturday night, Dabo Swinney’s victory celebration was short, but sweet.

“We’ve got the Smokin’ Pig (barbeque) coming tonight, and I am pumped about that,” Clemson’s head coach said. “And then we’ve got to flip the script.”

Such are the realities of playing football on Thursday nights.

No.14 Clemson had precious little time to savor an uneven 38-17 win over Virginia Tech that improved its record to 6-1 and kept hopes of a second consecutive ACC title alive.

There was the matter of preparing for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. trip to Wake Forest, a place where the Tigers have won only two of their last five trips dating back to 2003.

Combine that with Clemson’s Thursday night curse – the Tigers have not beaten an ACC opponent on Thursday night since winning at N.C. State in 2005 – and there is ample reason for concern.

It might not register on the national radar, but Swinney and Co. must figure out their Thursday night problems for a promising season to stay on track.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready,” Swinney said. “The mentality of our season starts tomorrow. That’s our mentality. That’s the way it needs to be. That’s all we control.”

The Tigers haven’t played a Thursday night game since losing at Georgia Tech in 2009, and that’s probably just fine with them. Their recent history has been checkered at best. In 2006, a 24-7 meltdown at Virginia Tech triggered a freefall from a top-10 ranking to an 8-5 finish.

Two years later, Tommy Bowden coached his last game of a decade-long run as the Tigers’ head coach in an ugly 12-7 loss at Wake Forest. Four days later, he resigned under pressure, beginning the Swinney era.

And who can forget Georgia Tech building a 24-0 lead against Clemson in September 2009, only to see the Tigers storm all the way back for a 27-24 fourth-quarter lead – and then watch as Tech rallied for a 30-27 win.

In his three-plus years leading the program, Swinney has changed plenty of perceptions. He’s won two ACC division titles in three full seasons, as well as the program’s first ACC title in 20 years. Saturday marked the 11th consecutive home win, tying a program record; he spoke, as he often does, of changing the culture.

Three years have passed since Clemson last played a Thursday night game – that weird night on the Flats. So it is unfair to pin the Thursday curse strictly on Swinney’s shoulders. That night, he spoke about how his team had turned a corner; two months later, it clinched its first trip to the ACC title game, a hurdle which consistently tripped Bowden.

To clear this hurdle, focus will be crucial. Clemson’s Saturday night curfew was midnight, and Sunday, normally an off-day, was reserved for a Tuesday-like practice.

“We’re going right back to work,” he said. “You’re only as good as your last game. We have a huge game Thursday. If we go to Wake Forest and lay an egg, everyone forgets about the rest.”

A year ago, the Tigers started 8-0 before a loss at Georgia Tech started a 2-4 finish, capped by the Orange Bowl embarrassment.

The seeds of a fast finish are planted now. No time to wait.

“We didn’t finish good last year,” Swinney said. “We had a great season, but all anyone wanted to talk about was what we didn’t do. It was a long list of what we did and a short list of what we didn’t. But people remember November. It’s not the start – it’s the finish.”

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Comments » 13

omnipotent1 writes:

Come on greg you can think of something else negative about Clemson.

TigerShore12 writes:

I was at Tommy Bowden's last game on that Thursday night 4 years ago pulling for my tigers. I'll be at the game this Thursday night pulling for my tigers. Wake Forest is not an easy place to play and Jim Grobe will have his boys ready for the primetime spotlight. Yes last weekend was a big win. But, this Thursday, Clemson has an opportunity to prove it's worth to the nation. Keep those guys pumped Dabo, they're gonna need your fire for Thursday. GO TIGERS!!!

TrevorT writes:

Greg, I know it's your job to find something to write about but this is a little silly. Sure, point out how we have struggled on Thursday nights, but what can be done to overcome a coincidence? That's all it is. We need to prepare for this game like any Saturday game. We play well, we win, plain and simple.

TheRealistTruth writes:

in response to TigerShore12:

I was at Tommy Bowden's last game on that Thursday night 4 years ago pulling for my tigers. I'll be at the game this Thursday night pulling for my tigers. Wake Forest is not an easy place to play and Jim Grobe will have his boys ready for the primetime spotlight. Yes last weekend was a big win. But, this Thursday, Clemson has an opportunity to prove it's worth to the nation. Keep those guys pumped Dabo, they're gonna need your fire for Thursday. GO TIGERS!!!

How is facing a 4-3 team, who is second to last in the division, proving your worth? I can't help but laugh at how you pump your chest at such weak opponents. VT was a big win? Maybe a couple of years ago, today's VT is now 4-4! They are not a good team. I would be ashamed to be a fan of this team that is only beating unranked teams. PLAY SOMEONE! That's when you prove your worth, not playing horrible teams each week. My goodness you are all pitiful.

TigerShore12 writes:

in response to TheRealistTruth:

How is facing a 4-3 team, who is second to last in the division, proving your worth? I can't help but laugh at how you pump your chest at such weak opponents. VT was a big win? Maybe a couple of years ago, today's VT is now 4-4! They are not a good team. I would be ashamed to be a fan of this team that is only beating unranked teams. PLAY SOMEONE! That's when you prove your worth, not playing horrible teams each week. My goodness you are all pitiful.

@TheRealistTruth:
I'm a Clemson fan, so that's why I'm on here. What's pitiful is that you have to come on here(OrangeandWhite) and bash fans for pulling for their team. Go back to your hole, b/c you just "proved your worth".

TheRealistTruth writes:

in response to TigerShore12:

@TheRealistTruth:
I'm a Clemson fan, so that's why I'm on here. What's pitiful is that you have to come on here(OrangeandWhite) and bash fans for pulling for their team. Go back to your hole, b/c you just "proved your worth".

I can do as I please. You didn't answer my question by the way. How is beating Wake Forest, who is 4-3 and second to last in your division going to prove your worth?

TUN writes:

THeRealistTruth is a FRAUD. He needs to get a life and go find someone else to insult. May I suggest either West Virginia or South Carolina. They have shown themselves to be FRAUDS as well so perhaps FRAUDS insulting FRAUDS is appropriate.

TheRealistTruth writes:

in response to TUN:

THeRealistTruth is a FRAUD. He needs to get a life and go find someone else to insult. May I suggest either West Virginia or South Carolina. They have shown themselves to be FRAUDS as well so perhaps FRAUDS insulting FRAUDS is appropriate.

Clemson's only ranked opponent has been Florida State, and their pathetic defense allowed 667 total yards. A fanbase excited over lousy wins over unranked opponents.

TUN writes:

Let's rename "TheRealistTruth" "TheLittleFraud" and we all know why we are calling him "little." Then again he may not even have a twig and berries.

TUN writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well said sennmanthetigerfan!!!!

TUN writes:

in response to TheRealistTruth:

Clemson's only ranked opponent has been Florida State, and their pathetic defense allowed 667 total yards. A fanbase excited over lousy wins over unranked opponents.

All I can say is 6-1 baby!!! Take a look at the other team in the state sitting at 5-2 with a good case of RED AS S after a brutal whooping at the hands of the Gators. I wouldn't want to be South Carolina. Or take a look at West Virginia who has now been humiliated on a NATIONAL SCALE in two successive weeks (49-14 and 55-14). They are FRAUDS. Compared to those two teams, baby we are looking good!!!!!!!!!

kellytown writes:

in response to TigerShore12:

@TheRealistTruth:
I'm a Clemson fan, so that's why I'm on here. What's pitiful is that you have to come on here(OrangeandWhite) and bash fans for pulling for their team. Go back to your hole, b/c you just "proved your worth".

Well here is my thoughts the SEC teams are alway's over ranked look at GA,SC,LSU, They are all over ranked!!!Lets see Ga gets whopped by the coots then the coots get beat by LSU a team that just gets by every game.Then you take the Coots to fla.and what happens you get torched.. So don;t take it out on the orange and white this is a problem in the rankings The only good teams in the SEC are Alabama, Fla,Ga,LSU. This is my problem with all of this all of the sorry teams take the credit for playing in the toughest conf. in the nation but never contribute.Then they show their real selves when they play the real SEC teams lets face it you are door mats. The ACC my not have the rankings that the SEC has however alot of the SEC rankings are are not deserving if you were in any other conf you would probally not be ranked high as you are you may not be ranked at all.

TrevorT writes:

"PLAY SOMEONE!" That's possibly the dumbest thing ever written. Who can control the performance of other teams in their conference. The only thing a school can control is their out of conference games. For those we went to the high and mighty SEC for two games. The first was a team we beat soundly who has since turned into a pile of garbage. The other seems well on it's way to the same fate. But somehow Clemson University is responsible for that! And in the meantime we shouldn't be happy about winning football games. What a doofus!

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