Nov. 11, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Chances are it will be a bigger deal for you when Georgia Tech plays at Clemson Thursday night than it was when the Yellow Jackets played, say, at Duke.
In that way, fans aren’t much different than players. Games have different vibes, and the nationally-televised, prime-time game against the No. 8 team in the nation does not feel the same to them as others.
The Jackets do not, however, all share the same reasons for their anticipation.
“We have a lot of Georgians on our roster, and they get jacked up for Georgia,” said senior fullback David Sims. “I personally get jacked up for Clemson. It’s just something that has resonated for a long time.”
Why? Well, Sims is from the South Carolina town of St. Matthews. Clemson’s in South Carolina. And Clemson did not recruit Sims, who came out of Calhoun County High School as a quarterback.
It wasn’t that Sims wasn’t interested in the Tigers. But they were recruiting a quarterback named Tajh Boyd out of Hampton, Va., at the time.
“I did [have interest], but they didn’t offer me,” he said. “That’s partly why I’ve got a little animosity.”
Senior linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu has especially fond memories of the Jackets’ 31-17 upset of the Tigers in 2011 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech was unranked at the time, and Clemson was ranked No. 6.
When you first talk to him about whether there’s a difference between this game and most others, Attaochu comes off with a business-like response: “The preparation is always the same, maybe more attention to detail. You understand the situation, and the type of team you’re playing.
“They’re going to capitalize on mistakes more than maybe some other teams so you’re more on edge.”
Turns out, Attaochu and others may draw part of their “edge” from their environment. Clemson is going to be super-charged under the lights. Poke the big linebacker a little longer and his tune evolves.
“I think we have a thing for night games on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere. We’ve never played there at night and I know guys will be jacked up about that. We love things like that. We love adverse elements.”
Speaking of a business-like approach, leave it to senior safety Jemea Thomas to toe the straight line.
“Death Valley is a hard place to play. It will be loud and rocking. We’ve just got to be ready for that,” he said. “It really doesn’t bother me if we play here or go play somewhere else. We just go out and play.”
Senior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, though, has a different feeling. Last year’s 47-31 loss up there still sticks in his craw. The Jackets led in the fourth quarter before just about everything went wrong. It started wrong for him.
“Last year, I didn’t play so that sticks in my mind. I had hurt my knee,” Nealy said. “I’m looking forward to it. I saw the [night] game they played against Florida State, and the atmosphere just on TV . . . I know fans are going to be amped up and the environment is going to be incredible.
“We’ve started the second half of the season at 3-0, and Clemson is coming in at No. 8 and it’s an opportunity for us. We’re amped up and we definitely want to redeem ourselves after last year’s defeat. It does play a role when you’re playing a high-caliber team.”
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