The official definition of “Clemsoning” reads: The act of delivering an inexplicably poor performance, usually within the context of a college football season.
I have a new definition: The act of finding a way to win close games, even in situations where you shouldn’t.
The latest example came Saturday night, where the Tigers trailed in Tallahassee — a place they hadn’t won since 2006 — by deficits of 28-20 and 34-29, yet came back to win 37-34.
This leads to an incredible stat, as cited by Yahoo’s Pat Forde: Clemson is 16-2 in one-score games dating back to the start of the 2011 season and 5-0 this fall.
“I never think we’re going to lose,” Swinney told Yahoo. “But boy, we make it hard sometimes.”
Clemson’s close wins this season include:
– a 19-13 squeaker over Auburn that saw the Swinney’s bunch survive three end zone heaves inside the final 10 seconds from the Clemson 40
– a 30-24 win over Troy in which Clemson benefitted from some helpful officiating and didn’t secure the win until recovering an onside kick with 44 seconds left
– a 42-36 shootout over Louisville in which the Tigers rallied from a 36-28 hole with 7:52 left and allowed Louisville’s game-winning drive to reach their 3-yard line.
– a 24-17 overtime win over NC State that only reached overtime because the Wolfpack missed a game-winning chip shot
– Saturday’s thriller that required Clemson to overcome two fourth quarter deficits and some Seminole self-destruction.
So, what’s Dabo’s secret? The secret is that there is no secret.
“People talk about karma, I don’t buy into all that mess,” Swinney said. “You’re either the better team or you’re not. You either make the plays to win or you don’t.”
The obvious parallel to 2016 Clemson is 2014 Florida State, a squad that booked back-to-back undefeated regular seasons on the strength of a 7-0 mark in one-score games — including a 23-17 overtime defeat of Clemson, one of the Tigers’ two close losses in the last half-decade.
Of course, we all know how that turned out for those Seminoles.
Still, there is a skill in making the plays that need to be made when you need to make them, one that Clemson has mastered under Dabo.
ESPN ACC writer David Hale sums it up best here:
Winning a close game may mean you're lucky. Winning every close game probably means you're good. https://t.co/U0lKJoCD9g
— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) October 31, 2016