Bowers, Ellington lone bright spots

Turnovers were the primary culprit in Clemson's 30-21 loss to Miami on Saturday.

For the first time this season, turnovers became a major issue for the Tigers, who had a plus-5 turnover margin in their 2-1 start. But against the Hurricanes, Clemson's ball control went awry as the Tigers lost three fumbles and quarterback Kyle Parker was intercepted three times.

"You just can't win without good ball security," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "This was tough because in the past we'd been taking care of the football very well. It's really miraculous that it was that close, to be honest with you. It says a lot that we only lost 30-21 to a very good football team in Miami with six turnovers."

Although Parker insisted there were no lingering effects from the bruised ribs he suffered two weeks earlier at Auburn, the sophomore struggled mightily. He threw three interceptions for the first time in his college career and completed just 14 of 33 passes foe 149 yards.

"I wouldn't say being sore or being beat up was any excuse for not playing well," Parker said.

Parker entered the game with a 158.4 passing efficiency -- the second-best figure in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- but posted a career-worst 62.1 rating against Miami.

"I think in the first half I was behind," Parker said. "A lot of my balls weren't going where I wanted them to, and when they got tipped, the other team caught them. But I could have done a better job of responding."

Parker won't have long to recover -- physically or psychologically. The Tigers hit the road to play at North Carolina Saturday.

GAME BALL GOES TO: DE Da'Quan Bowers -- Bowers was almost unstoppable against Miami, continuing a season that could see him emerge as one of the NFL's top draft picks next year. Bowers, who entered the game with five tackles for loss this season, almost matched that total against the Hurricanes with 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including one sack. Bowers, who finished with six tackles and two forced fumbles, ranks second in the ACC with 10 tackles for loss.


The lone bright spot was Andre Ellington, who may very well turn out to be the best running back in the ACC this season. All he did was rush 17 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns and single-handily keep the Tigers in contention. (Roy Philpott)
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR DeAndre Hopkins -- Although he fumbled after a 20-yard reception Saturday against Miami, the freshman receiver may see considerably more playing time -- if not earn a starting slot -- after making three catches for 39 yards. Coach Dabo Swinney seemed duly impressed. "Hopkins went out and earned his spot today," Swinney said. "He stepped up today on the field and proved himself. The one thing he needs to work on his holding onto the ball, but he's a freshman and will learn from his mistakes in time."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's nice to have a guy like that behind you. Andre's speed is incredible." -- Clemson fullback Chad Diehl on blocking for Andre Ellington.

LOOKING GOOD: Andre Ellington is no C.J. Spiller -- or is he? The sophomore speedster looked like Spiller on a 71-yard touchdown sprint on his second carry Saturday against Miami. It was the longest run of Ellington's career and the longest by Clemson since Spiller had an 80-yard run in the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Ellington, who scored all three of the Tigers' touchdowns against Miami, seems to have asserted himself as the premier playmaker in a dual-threat backfield that also includes Jamie Harper. He has rushed for a combined 247 yards in the Tigers' last two games against Auburn and Miami.

"I don't want to take that credit," Ellington said. "I'm a team player and we didn't win those games -- that's the bottom line."

STILL NEEDS WORK: Clemson's secondary continues to have issues. Although DeAndre McDaniel and Marcus Gilchrist are two all-conference caliber players and have made their share of big plays this season, the secondary remains vulnerable to big plays. Overall the secondary hasn't yielded an inordinate amount of completions or yardage, but has given up a surprising number of big gainers and scores on complete breakdowns and blown coverages.

"We can't get the communication thing right," McDaniel said. "In the second half we came out and did better with that, but we gave up three big plays early and were playing from behind the whole game."

UPDATED INJURY REPORT: OG David Smith, who missed the Miami game after suffering a high ankle sprain Sept. 18 at Auburn, remains listed as doubtful for the Oct. 9 game at North Carolina.

Also, safety DeAndre McDaniel broke a bone in his wrist against Auburn two weeks ago but hasn't missed a practice or a game. He played Saturday with the wrist heavily wrapped and is expected to play Oct. 9.

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