CLEMSON — The Citadel head football coach Brent Thompson was awed by most of what he saw when Clemson let the Bulldogs practice at its indoor facility in September because of Hurricane Irma. One thing, though, struck him more than anything else — a slogan on the wall of the building that said, "Best is The Standard."
"It stuck with me and probably will stick with me forever," said Thompson, who has used that motto with his players ever since.
The Bulldogs (5-5) of the Football Championship Subdivision try to put then into practice when they take on No. 4 Clemson (9-1, No. 2 College Football Playoff) on Saturday.
Thompson said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was gracious enough to let Citadel use its indoor building on Sept. 11 when Irma closed its Charleston campus and made going home — Citadel played the previous Saturday at Presbyterian in Clinton, about 70 miles north west of Clemson — treacherous.
Swinney said he got notes of thanks from athletic director Jim Senter and Thompson. "They were all very appreciative and gracious," Swinney said.
The Tigers won't be as hospitable on the football field this week. They carry a 31-0 mark all time against FCS opponents since Division I-AA (now FCS) was created in 1978. Clemson has won 16 straight over the Citadel, dating back to 1931.
Citadel, which made headlines two years ago for defeating Clemson's Power Five rival South Carolina, hopes to give his young guys an experience at a major school and, perhaps, give the Tigers a game.
"It's going to be an awesome atmosphere," Thompson said.
Some other things to watch when Citadel plays at No. 4 Clemson:
DOUBLE DIGITS: Clemson is looking for its seventh consecutive 10-win season and 14th in school history. The Tigers would join Alabama, which has 10 straight, 10-win seasons, as the only programs with at least seven in a row.
CITADEL QB: Bulldogs passer Jordan Black threw for 223 yards in a loss at Southern Conference rival Furman last week. That was the most passing yards by a Citadel quarterback in eight years. The Bulldogs are primarily a run-first offense and their option attack led them to SoCon titles and NCAA playoff berths in 2015 and 2016.
SENIOR DAY: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said two juniors, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and offensive lineman Taylor Hearn, would be honored at Death Valley with the Tigers seniors. Both players have not made up their minds about coming back for a final season, but each are scheduled to graduate in December and Swinney wanted that celebrated by the crowd. Wilkins, at 6-foot-4, 300-pounds, has long been considered a first-round NFL prospect.
MORE LAPTOPS: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney couldn't help himself. When asked if he had seen much of Citadel this season, he joked about leaving a laptop out to spy on the Bulldogs when they practiced at Clemson in September. "We just put the laptop out there," he said. Swinney was referring to North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren asking for an investigation why a laptop was spotted on the Clemson sideline during the Tigers 38-31 victory earlier this month. Clemson said it was for social media, not football strategy. The ACC accepted Clemson's explanation.
OPTION GAME: Citadel leads the Southern Conference and is second in the FCS with 308 rushing yards per game this season. But Bulldogs coach Brent Thompson does not think he'll catch the Tigers flat-footed, not with the way they've handled option-running Georgia Tech the past few years. Clemson has won the past three against the Yellow Jackets and have not let them get untracked. "They know what it takes to defend the option," Thompson said.