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October 11, 2004[Talk about this story on The Esso Club Message Board]
Clemson Finally Back in Death Valley
Clemson just finished a stretch of three straight games on the road. The last time Clemson had to do that was 1994 when Clemson played at Georgia, at Duke and at Florida State in successive games. Clemson also had three straight games on the road in 1990 and the aforementioned 1984 season. The 1984 streak also had an open date weekend (as this year's schedule did) during that stretch of three straight road games. You have to go all the way back to 1965 to find the last time Clemson played four straight road games.
And, the Tigers haven't been playing a weak schedule on the three road lately. Texas A&M (23rd), Florida State (7th) and Virginia (6th) are all ranked in the top 25 of the latest AP poll. When Clemson played Florida State and Virginia on the road back to back the last two games it marked the first time since 1966 that Clemson had to play consecutive games on the road against top 10 teams. The Tigers still have another road game at a top 10 team, as Clemson will travel to third-ranked Miami (FL) on November 6.
Clemson Successful on Homecoming
There is no record of a homecoming game in 1930 or 1938, but the event has been held in conjunction with a football game every year since 1939, even through the war years. Clemson has a 58-19-3 overall on homecoming games, a .743 winning percentage.
The Tigers are 28-3-2 on homecoming since the 1971 season. The only three losses since 1971 have been to Georgia Tech in 1989, Virginia in 1997 and 2001 to North Carolina. Clemson defeated Virginia in overtime on homecoming last year, 30-27, and Wake Forest by a 31-23 count in 2002.
First time Winners at Death Valley
Utah State is the 45th different team to come to Clemson Memorial Stadium and the previous 44 have a record of 11-32-1 in their first game at Clemson. Three of the 11 first-time winners (Alabama, Kentucky, Marshall) have beaten the Tigers by the exact same score, 13-10.
A look to Clemson's home record over the years shows why the Tigers are anxious to return to Death Valley. Clemson has a record of 296-114-15 at home over the years, a .714 winning percentage. Clemson is 244-254-25 away from home, a .490 winning percentage for those 523 games on an opponent's home field. Clemson is 55-44-5 in neutral site games. Overall, Clemson has won 58.7 percent of its games over the years.
Clemson has a 223-88-7 record in Death Valley (since 1942), a .712 winning percentage for 318 games. Tommy Bowden has followed the lead of his predecessors when it comes to playing at home. He is 24-10 so far in his 34 home games, a .706 winning percentage. If he leads the Tigers to victory against Utah State that record will be 25-10, or a 714 winning percentage, the exact same home winning percentage as Clemson's home winning percentage since the Tigers first started playing the sport in 1896.
Clemson vs. Utah State History
Utah State is a member of the Sun Belt Conference, an affiliation it will end in 2005 when the Aggies join the Western Athletic Conference. Clemson is 1-0 against teams in the Sun Belt and that game took place just last year when Clemson defeated Middle Tennessee 37-14 at Death Valley.
Utah State, who will be playing a game in the state of South Carolina for the first time ever, has played two games against current ACC members, but both schools weren't in the ACC at the time of the game. In 1975 Utah State dropped a close 17-8 decision at Florida State. Three years later the Aggies lost at Miami (FL) by a 17-16 score.
Utah State Update
The Aggies of fifth-year head coach Mick Dennehy, a 1973 Montana graduate, have a 2-4 record entering Saturday's game. Two of the losses have been to nationally prominent programs Alabama and Utah. Utah State recorded a strong win when it won at UNLV over the Rebels team coached by former National Championship coach (Southern Cal) John Robinson.
Travis Cox is the leader of the offense from the quarterback position. The senior from Hyrum, Utah was a second-team All-Sun Belt Conference choice last year when he completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 2791 yards and 18 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He is in his second year as a starter, as he started all 12 games a year ago. He led the Sun Belt Conference in total offense in 2003, thanks in part to his first start of the year when he threw for 280 yards against Utah.
This season, Cox has completed 55.7 percent of his passes, but has been plagued by interceptions, as he has 13 in six games. He has thrown for eight touchdowns. His favorite target is Tony Pennyman, a senior from Hayward, CA who had just 10 catches for 88 yards all last year. But, in 2004, he has 29 catches for 440 yards and two scores, including a 79-yard catch and run. Kevin Robinson, also the top punt returner in the nation, is second on the team with 20-265 and two scores.
Utah State is 115th in the nation in rushing, and is led by Chris Forbes with 127 yards in 43 attempts. He is the only player over 100 yards rushing for the season for the Aggies who had 1300 yards rushing as a team a year ago.
The defense is led by Robert Watts, who has 40 tackles and two interceptions for 100 return yards. The senior linebacker from Lancaster, CA who has 31 career starts, led the team in tackles last year with 118. Jared Johnstun is second on the club in tackles with 39, while Antonio Taylor has 38 stops to go with two interceptions for 71 return yards.
Utah State is coming off a 31-23 loss to North Texas last Saturday. Jamario Thomas, one of the top rushers in the nation, had 256 yards in 38 attempts to lead North Texas. Cox threw for 290 yards for Utah State, but he had four interceptions and lost two fumbles. With North Texas leading 24-20 in the third period, Utah State was driving for the lead touchdown when Cox fumbled and it was recovered by John Covington of North Texas, who returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown. Neither team scored in the fourth period.
Utah State Football History
Clemson-Maryland Game Time Set
Whitehurst All-Time Passing Yardage Leader Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst became Clemson's career leader in completions in the Texas A&M game. He had 20 completions in that contest (third consecutive game with exactly 20) and now has 497 for his career entering the Utah State game.
Whitehurst established another Clemson career record in the loss at Virginia when he became Clemson's career passing yardage leader. Whitehurst completed 16-28 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against the Cavaliers. He entered the game needing just 80 passing yards to break Woody Dantzler's record of 6037. His performance at Virginia now gives him 6124 for his career. The next record in range is the touchdown pass record. Whitehurst now has 37 for his career at Clemson, second in Clemson history behind Dantzler's 41. Not bad considering Whtiehurst is just a junior and has played just 27 games, 23 as a starter.
Whitehurst owns 35 Clemson records. He became Clemson's career leader in passing attempts at Florida State and now has 850. He also still holds the record for completion percentage at 58.5, ahead of Dantzler's 57.8. Whitehurst is third in school history in terms of total offense with 6191, trailing only Dantzler (8798), and Greene (6786).
Whitehurst threw for 275 yards in Clemson's loss to Georgia Tech after recording 288 in the opener against Wake Forest. He had 192 passing yards at Texas A&M breaking his Clemson record streak of eight straight games with at least 200 yards passing. In fact, his streak was eight straight with at least 246 yards through the air. He has thrown for at least 246 yards in 17 of his 22 games as a starter. Whitehurst is now 13-10 as a starter in his Clemson career, 8-3 at home, 4-6 on the road and 1-1 at neutral site.
Kick Return Men on Display
Utah State's Kevin Robinson is a freshman wide receiver who is leading the nation in punt returns with a 36.0 average. He has two punt returns for touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, one of just five players nationally with two punt returns for touchdowns this season. Clemson will have to spend a lot of time on punt coverage over the coming weeks as Miami (FL) return man Devin Hester is second in the nation in punt returns with a 33.7 average, and also has two punt returns for touchdowns.
Robinson's 36.0 average so far this season is way ahead of the all-time NCAA record for a single season. The record is 25.9 yards per return by Bill Blackstock of Tennessee in 1951, one of just two players in NCAA history to average over 25 yards a punt return for the course of a season. Robinson is in his first year with the Utah State varsity and is a native of Fresno, CA. His brother, John Rushing, played defensive back at Washington State and is now the secondary coach at Utah State.
Clemson has its own weapon in terms of kick returns in Justin Miller, who is also a starting cornerback for the Tigers. Miller ranks third in the nation and first in the ACC in kickoff return average with a 34.3 figure. His season performance includes an NCAA record 282 kickoff return yards at Florida State on September 25, a game in which he also had two returns for touchdown, just the 10th player in NCAA history to have two kickoff returns for touchdown in the same game. Miller also has a punt return for a score and is the only player in the nation with three total kick returns for touchdown this year.
With Miller's performance this year, he is now first in ACC history in career kickoff return average with a 31.3 figure, 3.2 yards per return against of former South Carolina player Dickie Harris, who played at South Carolina from 1969-70. Miller is now third in Clemson history in total kickoff return yards with 1408. He is just 145 yards away from breaking Derrick Hamilton's record.
Richardson in Starting Lineup
Since freshman eligibility returned to college football for the 1972 season, only three first-year freshman offensive linemen have started a game for the Tigers. In addition to Long, James Farr started at center against Rice in the opening game of 1980 and Joe Bostic started the last two games of the 1975 season at offensive tackle (Maryland and South Carolina). Thus, Richardson was just the fourth to start since 1972.
Richardson's ascension to the starting lineup is not that big a surprise because he has played 74 snaps over the last two games, 38 at Texas A&M and 36 at Florida State. He played the entire second half in Tallahassee and received high grades for his performance from line coach Brad Scott. Richardson did not allow a sack against the Seminoles and had an 81 percent technique grade. Richardson played every snap at Virginia and has now played 142 snaps for the season.
Richardson, 6-7 and 350 pounds, came to Clemson from Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC where he played for Coach Bob Hayes. The 18-year-old graduated a year early from high school, the first scholarship player to leave high school a year early to come to Clemson. His brother Nate Richardson, is 6-4 and 285 pounds and is a starting tackle at South Carolina State as a red-shirt freshman. Believe it or not, both brothers lived in the same room while growing up.
Tigers Faced Top 10 Teams in Consecutive Games
Clemson has had to play consecutive games against teams ranked in the top dozen in the nation just four times in its history. In addition to the 1983 listing, the other seasons were in 1966 (vs. #9 Georgia Tech and #4 Alabama), 1963 (vs. #4 Oklahoma and #9 Georgia Tech), and 1955 (vs. #2 Maryland and #12 Auburn). Clemson did not win any of those games.
The Tigers then will go back on the road to face first-year ACC school Miami (FL) in the Orange Bowl on November 6, another team currently ranked in the top 10 (third this week). If Miami is still ranked in the top 10 at that time, it would be just the second time in Clemson history and first since 1966 that Clemson has played three road games against top 10 teams in the same season. The 1966 team played at #9 Georgia Tech, at #4 Alabama and at #5 Southern Cal, all within the first five games of the season.
Turnovers a Telling Stat
Entering games of October 16, Clemson has committed 15 turnovers on offense, while forcing just three on defense. That is a --12 turnover margin in just five games, meaning Clemson ranks last in the nation in turnover margin, 117 out of 117 teams. In terms of points off turnover so far this year the Tigers are being outscored 35-0 in that area. Clemson has lost the turnover margin stat in every game this year, with the exception of the Virginia game when both teams had one apiece.
When Tommy Bowden came to Clemson in 1999, his teams were noted for their excellence in that statistics. For the 1997 and 1998 seasons when he was the head coach at Tulane, Bowden's teams finished fifth in the nation in turnover margin. Prior to this year, his five Clemson teams were 30-9 when at least breaking even in terms of turnover margin and 8-15 when they lost the turnover margin stat. In 2003, when Clemson won nine games, the Tigers were 6-0 when they won the turnover margin statistic. His 2000 team that also won nine games, had a 6-1 record when winning that stat.
Clemson has a history of doing well in this area. The Tigers are the co-holders of the national record for the fewest turnovers in a season with eight in 1940. Notre Dame also had just eight turnovers in 2000. Clemson is also the co-holder of the record for the fewest lost fumbles in a season as the Tigers lost just two in 1994. Fumbles by running backs have not been a problem of late. In fact, over the last 17 games a Clemson running back has lost just one fumble.
Miller's Return Service
Twenty-six years later Justin Miller is having an even bigger impact on the Clemson return game. In fact, he is establishing standards that have not been seen previously. Miller set an NCAA record for kickoff return yards in a single game when he gained 282 yards in that category at Florida State on September 25. He shattered the previous mark (248 kickoff return yards on 10 returns by Tyrone Watley of Iowa State vs. Nebraska in 1997) by 34 yards. Miller had the record broken by his fourth return and it was just the third quarter.
Miller's day included a record tying two kickoff returns for touchdown to tie another NCAA record. His first quarter 97-yarder gave Clemson a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and his 86-yarder off a Florida State free kick after a safety brought Clemson within 24-22 in the third period. Miller became the first ACC player in history to have two kickoff returns for touchdown in the same game and the 10th different player (11th occasions) to have two kick returns for touchdown in the same game. Rocket Ismail of Notre Dame (1988-90) is the only player to do it twice. Miller was the first player to do it since Tony Lukins of New Mexico State against Tulsa on October 6, 2001.
Miller already has three kick returns for touchdowns this year, the two kickoffs against Florida State and a 69-yard punt return against Wake Forest in the season opener. Entering the games of October 16, Miller stands third in the nation in kickoff returns with a 34.3 yard average. He now has a career average of 31.3, which is not only a Clemson record, but an ACC record.
Miller has five career kick returns for touchdowns, three kickoff and two punt returns. The NCAA record for a career is eight, set by Cliff Branch of Colorado in 1970 and 1971. Miller has a 12.7 average on punt returns to go with his 34.3 average on kickoff returns and ranks 21st in the nation in punt returns. He is attempting to become the first Clemson player to rank in the top 25 in both categories in the same season since Antwuan Wyatt did it in 1995.
Miller Fourth in All-Purpose Running
Additionally, Miller actually leads the Clemson team in scoring with 18 points. He also has the team lead in touchdowns, and it is safe to say he is the only defensive player in the nation who leads his team in scoring.
The junior from Owensboro, KY has also been a leader on defense where he has 35 tackles to rank fourth on the team ad has six passes broken up to rank second in that category. He is still looking for his first interception of the season, but has 10 for his career, including eight during his freshman year when he was fifth in the nation in interceptions per game.
Miller's diverse accomplishments are also reflected in the ACC player of the week selections. He was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his performance in the opener against Wake Forest, then won special teams honors for his efforts against Florida State. He is the only player to win in two categories so far this year.
Clemson Special Teams Productive
Hill Among National Leaders Again
Hill ranked seventh in the nation (prior to October 2 games) in tackles for loss per game and was 10th in quarterback sacks. Manny Lawson of NC State actually led the nation in sacks and was fourth in tackles for loss so that will be an interesting matchup of defensive players when NC State comes to Clemson on October 30.
Hill was the ACC Defensive Lineman of the week in Clemson's loss to Georgia Tech when he had a season high 14 tackles, including three tackles for loss. He had 13 stops at Florida State, including three tackles for loss and a sack.
Tye Hill (no relation) was another Clemson defender in the national rankings last week. The junior cornerback has seven passes defensed and ranked 13th in the nation in that area. He now has eight entering the games of October 16.
For his career, Hill now has 257 tackles, 40 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback sacks. He has done this even though he has started just 18 games in his Clemson career. Over his first two years, he played just 182 snaps from scrimmage.
During the preseason, Hill was named to the Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski Award lists, one of 16 players nationally to appear on all three lists. The only other ACC player on all three was Pat Thomas of NC State.
The 16 Players on Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski Preseason Lists
Running backs Averaging 5.0 Yards Per Carry
Entering the Georgia Tech game, a Clemson running back had just three runs of 50 yards or more under Tommy Bowden, two 52-yard runs by Zachery, and a 50-yard run by Duane Coleman last year against North Carolina. In the first game of this year, Clemson's longest run by a running back was just 12 yards.
But, that changed against Georgia Tech when running backs Reggie Merriweather and Kyle Browning both had runs of 54 yards or more. Merriweather had a 62-yard run with 8:19 left, then Browning had a 54-yard run with 3:18 remaining. So, Bowden went over five years without a run of more than 52 yards by a running back, then had two five minutes apart.
Merriweather's run against Georgia Tech was the longest by a Clemson running back since the final game of the 1996 season when Raymond Priester had a 65-yard touchdown run against South Carolina in Death Valley. Browning and Merriweather combined for 170 yards in just 13 carries, a 13.1 average against Georgia Tech. They had 15-79 at Texas A&M.
For the season, Clemson running backs are averaging 4.98 yards per carry, the best in Bowden's six seasons at Clemson. So far this year Merriweather has a 7.7 average on 21 attempts and Kyle Browning has a 8.0 average on 13 attempts.
Here is a comparison of the Bowdens at similar stages of their careers:
First 88 Games as a Division I Head Coach 57-32 56-33
Currie Leads ACC in Receptions, Yards
For the month of September this year Currie had 23 catches for 325 yards and a touchdown. He added seven catches in the first game of October at Virginia and now has 30 for the season. Currie leads the ACC in both receptions per game and reception yards per game is ranked in the top 30 in the nation in both areas.
Currie had nine catches for 152 yards in the season opener against Wake Forest. The 152 receiving yards in that game rank in a tie for sixth best in school history. He continued his fine performance at Texas A&M with five catches for 64 yards. In addition to his receiving accomplishments, Currie has been outstanding in terms of kickoff returns when he has had the opportunity, averaging 37.3 yards per return. He is averaging 103 all-purpose yards per game.
Currie's reached the 100 mark in terms of career receptions with his three catches at Florida State and he went over the 1500 mark in yards at Virginia. He is just the ninth player in Clemson history with at least 100 receptions and 1500 yards.
The effect Tommy Bowden has had on the Clemson passing game is shown by the list of players below. Even though he is in just his sixth year as Clemson head coach, seven of the top 12 receivers in Clemson history have played under Bowden at some point in their career.
Ben Hall Has TD Catch in All Four Seasons
Hall had his best game as a Tiger at Virginia when he had four catches for 72 yards, career highs in both areas. His performance included a 56-yard reception, the longest of his career and Clemson's longest pass play of the year. It set up a Clemson touchdown on the Tigers opening drive of the game.
Hall has seven catches for 127 yards so far this season and now has 30 for 418 yards for his career, a 13.9 average. One of his top games as a Tiger took place at Florida State in 2002 when he had three catches for 69 yards, including a 41-yarder that set up a Tiger score.
Hall was shut out at Florida State as far as receptions are concerned, but Coach Bowden praised him for his blocking, especially on special teams where he had key blocks on Justin Miller's kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Clemson Record by Uniform
Last year, the Tigers broke out purple jerseys for the Georgia Tech game in Atlanta on September 20 and the Tigers gained a 39-3 victory. It was the first time Clemson had worn purple jerseys since the 1991 season when Clemson wore them in a regular season game against NC State and for a bowl game against California.
Clemson has had seven jersey/pant combinations since Tommy Bowden came to Clemson. Clemson was in orange jersey and white pants for the opening win over Wake Forest, then all orange for the Georgia Tech game. Clemson had a white jersey and purple pants at Texas A&M.
Whitehurst, Baham Offspring of NFL Players
Baham was injured much of the preseason, but is healthy now a will be in the starting lineup against Virginia. Last year he was fourth on the team in receptions with 22 for 241 yards. He had at least one catch in each of the last eight games. Baham's father Curtis played in three games for the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. He was a star player at Tulane prior to his year in the NFL.
Whitehurst is the son of former Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst. The elder Whitehurst played seven years in the NFL. During that time he played in 54 games, completed 51.4 percent of his passes for 6205 yards and 28 scores. He was the Green Bay starter for most of the 1978 and 1979 seasons when he passed for over 2000 yards each season.
Quarterbacks Have Flourished under Bowden
One of the players Bowden recruited before he left Tulane was current Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey played at Tulane through the 2001 season and is now the starting signal caller for the Washington Redskins. Ironically, one of his top receivers is former Tiger Rod Gardner.
Since Bowden has been at Clemson, 57 Clemson passing records have been set or tied. Brandon Streeter set the Clemson single season completion percentage in 1999 when he connected on 63.1 percent of his passes. In 2001, Woodrow Dantzler became the first player in college football history to pass for 2000 yards and rush for 1000 in the same season. Whitehurst owns 35 Clemson passing records, including career records for completions and passing yards.
Bring a Pillow
The longest game in Clemson history was the victory over Tennessee in the 2004 Peach Bowl, a game that last four hours and five minutes. Of course there was a 27-minute halftime that contributed to the record length. There was a Maryland game that took 3:50 in 1992 in College Park. Those are the only games longer than last Saturday's night's game with Georgia Tech that took 3:48.
Tigers in the NFL
Donnell Washington, also a member of Clemson's 2003 team, is on injured reserve with the Green Bay Packers. A 15th player, Lorenzo Bromell of the New York Giants, is on the physically unable to perform list and should return by midseason.
The list of Tigers in the NFL includes Brentson Buckner of the Carolina Panthers, who is in his 11th season in the league, Brian Dawkins, a three time Pro Bowl safety with Philadelphia, Chris Gardocki, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who is in his 14th season in the league, and Trevor Pryce of the Denver Broncos, a two-time Super Bowl Champion and four time Pro Bowl selection. Lamont Hall was cut and did not play for the New Orleans Saints last year, but he is back with the team in 2004.
The Future of the ACC (Division structure)
The league will be divided into two divisions for 2005. Division A will be composed of Maryland, Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College. Clemson is guaranteed to play each of those schools every year. Division B is composed of Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech. Clemson is guaranteed to play only Georgia Tech every year from that Division.
The winners of each division will meet in the ACC Championship game the first Saturday in December in Jacksonville, FL each of the next two seasons.
Clemson Season Tickets Sold Out
"The excitement has carried over from the strong finish of the 2003 season resulting in a sell out of available seating for season tickets," said Ticket Manager, Bobby Skelton.
The addition of Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2004 season has also added to the excitement concerning the upcoming season. Clemson will play at Miami (FL) on November 6, the first meeting between the two schools since 1956.
Clemson season ticket sales are up 2000 from the previous year to nearly 57,000 and the sale of ticket packages has almost doubled from 2003, resulting in the Clemson-South Carolina game being a total sell out. Tickets are still available for the five remaining home games at a cost of $32.00 each. The opponents for those games are Wake Forest (Sept. 4), Georgia Tech (Sept. 11), Utah State (Homecoming on Oct. 16), Maryland (Oct. 23) and NC State (Oct. 30).
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Athletic Ticket Office at 1-800-CLEMSON or online at www.clemsontigers.com.
50 Years of Cannon Fire
The tradition began in 1954 when George Bennett, then the head cheerleader, got the idea from his father, who had seen Army do it after each score at a game he had attended at West Point in 1953. Prior to the 1954 season Bennett approached Clemson Head Coach Frank Howard and asked him permission to fire the cannon. Permission was granted and just prior to the 1954 season, Bennett's father purchased the small cannon. The tradition has been handed down to each head cheerleader ever since.
Bennett just retired from full time duty as Clemson's Executive Secretary of IPTAY. He served Clemson in that capacity during two stints for nearly 20 total years. He still has an office in the Jervey Athletic Center and will serve as the master of ceremonies for Friday evening's Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. This past year he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Athletic Development Directors.
Clemson Looks for 17th Bowl Trip in 20 Years Clemson has been to 16 bowl games in the last 19 years and certainly hopes to make it 17 out of 20 years with an invitation at the conclusion of the 2004 season. Clemson ranks in a tie for sixth among Division I schools in bowl game appearances since 1985 (19 seasons). The only schools ahead of Clemson is this category are Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska, who all been to 19 in a row, Tennessee with 18, and Miami (FL) with 17. Clemson is just ahead of Georgia (15) Southern Cal (14), Notre Dame (13), Arkansas 913), Auburn (13), Virginia (13), Syracuse (13) and NC State (13).
Clemson is one of 21 schools to go to a bowl game at least five years in a row and is one of 19 schools to win at least two bowl games over the last three seasons.