Blink and you might have missed it, but there was a decidedly R-rated moment in Clemson’s College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Ohio State on Saturday when defensive lineman Christian Wilkins let his fingers do the walking during a player scrum.

Wilkins apologized to Ohio State running back Curtis Samuel, but his teammate, linebacker Ben Boulware, came to his defense, offering a spirited case in the “boys will be boys” vein.

“The game is so serious and it’s so locked in out there, you try to do stuff just to have fun, to break up the seriousness of the game. People are trying to say ‘sexual assault’ — people that say that have either never played football, have never been in a locker room and seen the weird stuff,”  he said in a lengthy explanation Wednesday. “We’re together every day for years and years and years. You get very comfortable around each other.

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“I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well, I played football and I never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room or you were the person that went in the bathroom staff to change because you were scared to shower with the team.

“We do that stuff just to have fun out there, just to mess with the team. I know none of those players care. I know [quarterback] Zach Bailey didn’t care about that at all. You saw on film where he didn’t freak out. . . . Yes, Christian went — he went about four fingers deep. He went a little too far. But when I’m just messing with somebody, poking them in the belly button or grabbing someone’s butt, it’s just to break up the seriousness of the game. The people who are freaking out about that have never played the game or were just losers who didn’t have any friends when they played the game. It’s annoying.”

Coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers play Alabama in the national title game Monday, felt the groping was serious enough to merit a conversation with Wilkins. “Sure did,” he said. “I mean, I think he said it best. Just being goofy. You guys know Christian. He’s a guy that can be a little silly at times. We don’t have a better young man on the team than Christian Wilkins. apologized for it, apologized to the kid. That’s really it.”

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The moment was replayed endlessly on social media, with any number of former college and NFL players weighing in about the indignities that occur at the bottom of a pile of players. It’s just part of the game, they said, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Especially when it shows up on TV.

Wilkins quickly apologized and spoke with Samuel.

“I was being silly, and I apologize for that,” Wilkins told ESPN. “It’s stuff you do when you’re competing, and I know that’s not a good look. I apologize for that, and I shook hands with him after the game. There was no hard feelings.”

Samuel was fine, tweeting Sunday that if he had felt that, he would have gotten ejected.

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