SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Will Fuller admitted he had been thinking about Notre Dame’s trip to Clemson for weeks.
So as soon as he could get his fingers on his phone following last week’s 62-27 blowout win over UMass, he tweeted something he figured represented how excited he was for a top-15 showdown in front of one of college football’s best crowd atmospheres.
Clemson promise it's gonna be #savage
— Will Fuller V (@Will_Fuller7) September 26, 2015
At least one Clemson player, though, took Fuller’s tweet as social media trash talk.
“They’re talking a lot, obviously they don’t know what we do down here in Death Valley, so I’m looking forward to this,” Tigers safety Jayron Kearse said. “Looking forward to meeting a running back in the hole, catching Will Fuller on the post, whatever it takes.”
Kearse added: “Everybody thinks Notre Dame’s unstoppable. They honestly should have lost to Virginia. So they think Notre Dame’s unstoppable, so we going to come out here and show them that we can stop them.”
Strawmen aside (the same "everyone" who apparently think Notre Dame is unstoppable largely picked the Irish to lose to Georgia Tech two weeks ago), Fuller on Wednesday seemed a little confused as to how his tweet was misinterpreted.
“I really don’t pay any attention to what they say,” Fuller said. "Just getting prepared for the game on Saturday. But you know, it ("savage") just means two top teams playing, everyone’s going to be watching, it’s going to be a real great game. So if I would’ve said it like that, I think they would’ve took it better. But yeah, that’s all, man. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, a great experience for both teams.”
Clemson shouldn’t need any added motivation to beat a Notre Dame harboring legitimate playoff aspirations as a team ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers haven’t lost in their last 10 home games, a stretch dating back to a 51-14 loss to eventual champions Florida State in 2013. Saturday’s contest is the biggest game Death Valley has hosted since that game against the ‘Noles.
Notre Dame’s leadership, though, is working on sending a message to the rest of the team that this week is nothing more than another game.
“We just treat it like every other week,” safety and captain Matthias Farley said. “It's the biggest game on our schedule because it's the next game on our schedule, and to not get way up or way down for a team or an opponent, to focus same way you do each and every week, prepare the same way and not listen to the hoopla and all the noise surrounding the game.”
Notre Dame players aren’t viewing Saturday’s game as a barometer for the program in the wake of losing six players, including its starting quarterback, running back, tight end and nose guard, to season-ending injuries. They’re not approaching Clemson as a must-win game, even if the College Football Playoff committee very well could pass on including an 11-1 Notre Dame team in the four-team field later this year.
The Irish just as easily could’ve struck back at Clemson with some trash talk and emphatic declarations. Or maybe they could’ve taken to Twitter to send out something intended as trash talk. That’s not in the DNA of this group, though, as they head to South Carolina to take their toughest exam of the year.
“It's so easy to get caught up in Twitter and what people say and things like that,” defensive tackle and captain Sheldon Day said. “But it's all about what's happening in this building and what you can control."