The Clemson Tigers dealt with their fair share of trials and tribulations during the course of Saturday’s 43-42 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. With three ill-timed turnovers and 101 yards worth of penalties, the Tigers were certainly not granted any free passes. However, that has been a continuous theme of the Tigers’ hard-fought season thus far, and, in the postseason, it could very well provide Clemson with an edge over its opponents.
Needless to say, the Tigers had not coasted to their 9-0 start, collecting several wins due in large part to late-game heroics. But that tenacity in the face of adversity is perhaps the most defining component for the makeup of a championship-caliber football team, and Clemson is a shining example of it.
In Saturday’s high-scoring affair, the Tigers were penalized nine times and suffered all three of their turnovers in Pitt territory. While that assemblage of frustrating setbacks would be virtually insurmountable for most teams, the Tigers were able to respond on most occasions and nearly came away victorious because of it.
Clemson produced a touchdown-scoring drive following two of its turnovers and had three such drives after Pittsburgh scores. Despite falling short in the end, Clemson performed admirably throughout the game, showcasing its trademark offensive acumen. With 580 yards through the air, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson set an ACC record for most passing yards in a game.
Along with veteran wide receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams, who had 13 and 15 receptions, respectively, Watson took part in the Senior Day festivities and, even in defeat, showcased exactly what has made his Clemson career so special. Stringing together efficient drive after efficient drive, Watson and the Clemson offense were not defeated due to a lack of offensive production. Simply put, mistakes did the Tigers in, which will serve as a valuable learning tool for the team that still has every goal on the table.
“There are a lot of guys in there hurting,” said co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. “But, at the same time, this is an opportunity to see how we can respond.”
Based on their usual play when faced with adverse situations this season, the Tigers will respond in resounding fashion.
The margin for error in football is incredibly minute. Football brings with it exhilarating highs and desolate lows, but the Tigers have refused to let either faze them this season. Playing every game with as much intensity and poise as the last, getting caught up in the emotions that follow a particular game is something Clemson rarely falls prey to.
“I believe that adversity builds character and reveals it,” said head coach Dabo Swinney, following his team’s emotional loss.
An undeniable truth of life, Swinney’s maxim is the crux of what college football is all about. How a team adjusts week in and week out is the driving force behind the race to the top, and the Tigers are still heavily in contention to win that race.
It was once famously said that “the greatest test of courage on Earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” The foundation of Clemson’s success under Swinney has been its characteristic display of heart, which should be expected to continue revealing itself game in and game out, regardless of the final score in the previous contest.
Gridiron redemption will come sooner, rather than later, for Clemson because, no matter the situation at hand, the heart of a Tiger never ceases to beat in the face of adversity.
April 18, 2019