FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — The Clemson Tigers completed their first on-site practice in Florida on Sunday evening in preparation for their upcoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2023 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Friday, Dec. 29.
Clemson conducted a roughly 90-minute practice at a Jacksonville-area high school. With the Gator Bowl slated for a Friday kickoff, the team’s practice and meetings were similar to its typical in-season “Mental Monday” sessions. The practice had a special guest audience of approximately 30 youth football players and their families as part of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl’s Growing the Game initiative.
“I know it’s like a Sunday in the real world but it’s like a Monday to us, so this was kind of a Monday-type practice kicking this thing off, but it was good start,” Swinney said. “Guys had great energy, everybody was here and ready to roll.”
The team will gather Monday morning for a holiday brunch and conduct its annual “secret pals” gift swap. The team will return to meetings around noon in advance of its typical “TANOGA Tuesday” practice.
The 2023 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl will represent Clemson’s 50th all-time bowl appearance, making Clemson the 12th program ever to appear in at least 50 all-time bowl games. The game will be Clemson’s 10th all-time Gator Bowl appearance, its most of any bowl in school history, as well as the most by a single program in Gator Bowl history.
“It’s great to go and spend some time with your team in a setting like this,” Swinney said. “To be 4-4, everybody had a decision to make. Our team chose to believe that it was still half-full and kept a great attitude and just kept finding a way. What we were able to do against some really good teams and four really, really good quarterbacks in a row, the credit belongs to these players because they made a choice to finish. They’ve done a great job. They’ve won four in a row, they went from 4-4 to the Gator Bowl and this is a great opportunity to finish our season on a really positive note.”
The game will also be Clemson’s 20th bowl game under Swinney’s leadership, making him the first head coach to lead an ACC program in 20 career bowl games. With a win Friday, Swinney can set an ACC record for career bowl victories as an ACC head coach, passing Bobby Bowden’s 11 bowl wins during Florida State’s ACC membership.
The Tigers will seek to extend their active streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least one postseason win, including conference championships, bowl games and national championship games. Clemson’s current 12-year streak is the longest in FBS history, as the last season in which Clemson did not win at least one postseason game was in 2010.