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Buried season

The Clemson Tigers erect a tombstone for a victory over a ranked team away from the friendly confines of Death Valley — a tradition that arose in the wake of the “puntrooskie” game against Florida State in 1988.

CLEMSON — The Clemson football team officially “buried” the 2018 season.

"Welcome to what is becoming an annual tradition around here,” Swinney said as the Tigers added tombstones to their graveyard. “These guys (the players) are kind of making this habit.

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"This is a tradition that has been neat to participate in. Clemson has had a lot of success over the years -- and since my time it's been a great time to remember those moments throughout the year.”

The tradition of erecting a tombstone for a victory over a ranked team away from the friendly confines of Death Valley arose in the wake of “puntrooskie” game against Florida State in 1988.

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Florida State's tradition of taking sod from the field of a ranked opponent after defeating that team  did not sit well with then-Clemson coach Danny Ford. The following season following the Tigers' 34-23 win over the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Ford took a piece of sod from Doak Campbell Stadium and constructed his own graveyard outside the Tigers' practice fields. The headstone in the cemetery marked the first opponent to make an appearance in the graveyard.

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"This is not intended to embarrass an opponent or anything like that,” Swinney said. “It's just a tradition that goes way back at Clemson. It's something that this university has taken great pride in and this program has. It's really difficult to go on the road and beat a top-ranked opponent. It's just a very difficult thing to do. I'm proud of these guys because they've been a part of several of these (tombstones) over their career."

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For Swinney's Tigers, the two additions to the graveyard marked the 15th time since the head coach took over in the middle of the 2008 season that the Tigers have added to the graveyard — a feat that is becoming an impressive run considering that during the nine years of the Tommy Bowden era, the Tigers only added to the graveyard five times.

With the recent success both at home and on the road against ranked opponents, Swinney sees the graveyard as a teaching tool for the young players — a constant reminder not only of past success but as evidence that what the Tigers are teaching works.

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"I think that it speaks to the type of program that we have,” Swinney said. “The type of team that we have and the fact that we can beat anybody, anywhere. You can look at the recent history here and it's one thing to win at home -- which is very important -- but it's another thing to be able to go on the road and win at a high level against really good people. It's just validation for those guys to buy in and that we have a proven process if the will trust it."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io

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