It was after that game that Collins said that, while picked to finish last in the ACC, the Jackets have “a chance to be really good in the present,” a statement he didn’t back away from Tuesday.
“I’ve got a ton of confidence in this team, a ton of confidence in these players, a ton of confidence in these coaches,” he said.
Collins painted Saturday’s loss, in which the Jackets were outgained in yards 671-204, as an instance in which the Jackets were not able to capitalize on forcing two Clemson first-quarter turnovers and also allowed the Tigers to start two first-half drives within 20 yards of Tech’s goal line off two Tech turnovers, leading to 10 points.
Further, Tech game-planned to stop Tigers running back Travis Etienne, the reigning back-to-back ACC player of the year. The senior was limited to 44 yards on 11 carries in only the third game since the start of his sophomore season in which he failed to produce a run of 10 yards or more.
However, the Jackets could not impede Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who amassed 391 yards and five touchdowns (against one interception) in the first half.
“We had a couple of busts, and then we just had some matchup things that happened to us against elite players,” Collins said.
Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker made mention that his defense had poor eye discipline, meaning players let their line of vision stray from their assignments – a wide receiver, for instance – and perhaps fell for a ball fake, which enabled that receiver to run by them.
“We came in on Sunday, talked about eye discipline being the biggest, most critical issue,” Thacker said. “That starts with coaching and moves its way down to the players' responsibility and us all being accountable right there. So plenty of issues for us to solve.”
Thacker said that players responded appropriately Sunday when the team gathered for meetings and practice.
“Everyone came in with a mindset of moving forward,” he said.
Thacker said that coaches and players reviewed Clemson’s explosive plays on offense and said, “I think we all identified that we collectively allowed to happen.” He acknowledged that there were “some painful moments where we were very honest with one another.”
On Monday, the players' off-day, a large number came in for extra preparation for the Boston College game, followed by a Tuesday practice – the most physical of the week – in which the energy level was “what it’s supposed to be for us to move forward,” Thacker said.
Perhaps all is not lost. From 2010-19, there were 11 ACC teams that lost league games by 50 or more points, according to sports-reference.com. (Tech administered one of those blowouts, 56-0 over Syracuse in 2013. The 2013 Orange of coach Scott Shafer lost two league games by 56 points that season.) Of those 11, six went on to bowl games, including the 2013 Syracuse team.
“I’m just really proud of these guys, the way they’ve handled it – a bad situation – and come back and know that we’ve got another chance, another opportunity on Saturday against another really good team to show what we can be and what we can do,” Collins said.