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Clemson Player Receiving Death Threats After Botched Snap Against FSU

Ryan Norton is pictured (right) with former Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins

Ryan Norton is pictured (right) with former Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins

On Saturday Clemson suffered a crushing overtime defeat at the hands of bitter ACC rival Florida State, who was playing without Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who went undefeated as a freshman and led the Seminoles to a national championship. Winston was suspended for various acts of idiocy committed on campus.

These matchups are usually high stakes for both teams, with conference standing often on the line. This season there was more than that on the line for the Tigers, who lost 51-14 to the ‘Noles at home in 2013. Going into Tallahassee this year, their pride was at stake too.

Although FSU was still (inexplicably) considered a massive favorite without Winston, Clemson proved their mettle by keeping it close throughout the game, thanks in large part to the dynamic play of freshman quarterback DeShaun Watson, who is a budding superstar and already one of the most exciting players in the college game.

The Tigers were hurt by a fourth quarter turnover and a kicking game that can only be described as absolutely useless. Clemson fans were obviously devastated by the circumstances of the loss, which is probably why a few rogue angries have lashed out at center Ryan Norton, despite kicking deficiencies being a much bigger factor in the outcome.

Norton botched a snap late in the game, leading to a 23-yard loss on the play for the Tigers. They were unable to regain the yards and attempted a destined-to-fail 40-yard field goal two plays later.

On Tuesday it was widely reported that Norton had been receiving death threats on social media, and today Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confirmed them during his weekly press conference.

“Coach (Chad) Morris told me (about the threats) last night,” Swinney said. “That’s disappointing. I think he deleted his account. It’s a shame that young people have to deal with that kind of stuff. Nobody wants to make a bad snap.”

“I think most of it was people mad and venting, but it was threatening to Ryan is what I was told,” Swinney said. “Those aren’t fans – those are people with issues.”

Swinney also mentioned that he tried to diffuse some of the locker room tensions with humor, telling Norton and kicker Ammon Lakip that, although he hadn’t received any threats, they’re probably in the mail.

It was a nice try by Swinney, but not especially funny, considering those two kids are taking the brunt of the fallout for his terrible coaching decisions. Swinney’s decision making this season has been questionable at best and his record in big games throughout his tenure is poor.

For weeks Swinney has been peppered with questions about his continued insistence of starting mediocre senior game manger Cole Stoudt at quarterback over a dynamic game changer like Watson. He finally cried uncle not long into the game against Florida State, but the mistakes continued.

With no reason whatsoever to believe their kicker could deliver, the Tigers attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter—the first from 40 yards, the second from 23 yards—and Lakip missed on both.

Unfortunately for Clemson fans, Swinney saved his worst for last. With the game on the line on their first OT possession, the Tigers were faced with a fouth-and-1. Having finally come to terms with the kicking situation, they decided to go for it. It was the only option.

The obvious call, particularly with an athlete like Watson under center, would’ve been a quarterback sneak. Watson could’ve leaned forward and easily gained a yard. Even if he would’ve gotten lost under a pile of defenders, in that situation officials usually give the offense the benefit of the doubt and provide a favorable spot, which is almost impossible to overturn.

Instead, Swinney opted for a shotgun play in which Watson handed it over to running back Adam Choice, who was stuffed for no gain. Florida State won it on the next possession.

For Swinney, it’s easy to dismiss the threats lobbed at Norton as the isolated actions of a few non-fans with “problems” because, despite his continued underachieving and glaring shortcomings, he remains strangely revered at Clemson. The eight-year extension he signed last January was nothing short of stunning to many on the outside.

That could potentially change in November when they face in-state rival South Carolina, who has bested them five years running. At this point there’s no reason to assume the inconsistent Gamecocks will win, but if they do… it’s hard to imagine Swinney will come out unscathed again. 

But then again, it was hard to imagine Clemson would be eager to lock Swinney down for another eight years after three straight seasons (six, overall) of good, but not good enough.

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