You’d be hard-pressed to find a defense that was depleted as the Clemson Tigers were Saturday night when Irish fans stormed the field following a fourth and long stop in overtime. 

Clemson entered the game without several key players on defense including linebacker James Skalski, defensive tackle Tyler Davis, and linebacker Mike Jones Jr. Before it was over, the Tigers found themselves even more banged up as safeties Lannden Zanders and Nolan Turner along with defensive lineman Bryan Bresee all found themselves trotting to the sideline for medical attention. 

It’s always the next man up mentality in Clemson and that didn’t despite being forced to throw several reserves into the fire late the second half and through overtime Saturday night. 

Defensive lineman Nyles Pinckney is doing his part to pull the positives from Saturday night’s loss and be the leader his team needs as the Tigers are licking their wounds heading into the second open date. 

“I feel like at the end of the game, you’re going to be upset about a loss especially for Clemson because we don’t normally lose that much,” he said. ” Losing a game like that is hard but at the end of the day it’s only a failure if you don’t learn and grow from it.”

Pinckney had to encourage the younger players that were not as accustomed to losing games to find the positives and learn from the mistakes and overall experience Saturday night in South Bend. 

“We’ve just got to grow here. We have a bye coming up, we have time to get healthy with guys we really need so we can learn and get better,” he added.

Clemson’s veteran defensive tackle said he appreciated how the younger players responded to such a high pressure and tough situation. Their ability to fight until the very end despite the odds being stacked against them wasn’t overlooked by Pinckney. 

While it wasn’t ideal, it provided quality and meaningful reps to some of the second and third-team guys which can only help the Tigers moving forward. 
Pinckney downplayed the notion that Clemson ran out of steam down the stretch and credited it just being Notre Dame’s night in a 15-round slugfest. 

He also gave some love to R.J. Mickens, Ray Thornton III and Fred Davis as they were all put into the game with high expectations despite having a good deal of prior playing time in crucial moments of a game. 

“I feel like it gave them a chance to grow and get better,” Pinckney said. “It didn’t expose them but it’s going to help them grow and realize maybe I need to work on a certain area.” 

Nov 7, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Kyren Williams (23) stiff arms Clemson Tigers safety Nolan Turner (24) on his way to a touchdown in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

He admitted though it was challenging to see one player after another be assisted to the sideline Saturday night, that can’t be an excuse because everyone practices to be prepared. 

“It was hard to see your brothers go down especially in a game like that. But I told the young guys we’ve been practicing for this since fall camp. Coach Swinney is always preaching next man up no matter what the situation 

The open date comes at a good time after the Tigers exhausted their first open date after just two games earlier in the season. Now the Tigers can heal and begin preparation for a must-win situation down in Tallahassee next weekend against the Seminoles. 

“I told the younger guys we’re going to need them to be prepared and to just keep fighting, that’s all we want. Just give your best effort, put your best foot forward and no matter what the outcome is, you learned tonight and you’re going to grow.”