Clemson will honor its 50-year and 25-year anniversary teams this weekend prior to the Middle Tennessee game at Death Valley. Both teams will be introduced prior to the game and will run down the hill.
Clemson's 1953 team will celebrate its 50th anniversary. That was the first year of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Among the Tigers who are expected to return is Dreher Gaskins, who was Clemson's first first-team All-ACC athlete in any sport. The 1978 team finished the year with an 11-1 record, ranked sixth in the nation and won the Gator Bowl with a 17-15 win over Woody Hayes.
The 1939 and 1948 teams will also be back on campus for their annual reunion this weekend. The 1939 team was Clemson's first bowl team and had a 9-1 record, including a 6-3 win over Frank Leahy's Boston College Eagles. The 1948 team had a perfect 11-0 record, including a 24-23 win over Missouri in the Gator Bowl.
Clemson Faces New Team
This will be the first time Clemson has faced Middle Tennessee on the football field. The Blue Raiders are the 90th different opponent Clemson has faced on the gridiron, the 53rd different team currently playing Division I football.
The Blue Raiders will be the 44th different team to play Clemson in Death Valley, a facility that opened in 1942. Clemson is 31-11-1 vs. an opponent making its first appearance in Death Valley, a .733 winning percentage. Only two teams have won their first game in Death Valley since 1976. Notre Dame and quarterback Joe Montana did it in 1977 with a 21-17 victory on the way to winning the National Championship, and Marshall, led by current New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, accomplished the feat in 1999 by a 13-10 score. That Marshall team ended the season 13-0 and ranked 10th in the nation. That was Tommy Bowden's first game as Clemson coach.
This will be the first time Clemson has faced a team from the Sun Belt Conference. Utah State is in its first year in the league in football and is scheduled to come to Clemson next year on October 16.
Clemson and Middle Tennessee Coaches Worked Together
While Clemson and Middle Tennessee have never faced each other on the gridiron, there is some familiarity in regards to the coaching staffs.
Middle Tennessee head coach Andy McCollum was at Baylor from 1993-98. He was on the same Baylor staff with Clemson offensive line coach Ron West from 1993-96. Robb Rogers, Middle Tennessee's strength coach, was also on that Baylor staff during that time period. Baylor was Co-Champion of the Southwest Conference in 1994.
Steve Davis, the current defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, coached at two different schools with Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. Both served on Auburn's 1994 staff under Terry Bowden. Tommy Bowden was the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, while Davis was the secondary coach. The Auburn Tigers finished 9-1-1 that season.
When Tommy Bowden became head coach at Tulane in 1997, he hired Davis as his defensive coordinator. Davis held that position for two years under Bowden, helping the Green Wave to a 19-4 record in those two seasons, including a 12-0 mark in 1998.
Middle Tennessee Update
Middle Tennessee State enters Saturday's game with a 0-2 record. But, Clemson fans and players need only look at the score and the statistics from the Middle Tennessee vs. Georgia game of last week to be impressed. Playing at home, Georgia struggled to put the Blue Raiders away in front of 92,000 Bulldog fans at Sanford Stadium, 29-10.
Middle Tennessee has an impressive group of athletes led by quarterback Andrico Hines, a senior from Riverdale, GA. So far this year Hines has completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception in 59 attempts. Hines is also effect as a rusher with 55 yards in the two games.
The junior college transfer started 10 games at quarterback in 2002 and played well against some top flight competition. In a narrow (39-34) loss to Alabama, Hines completed 16-24 passes for 165 yards and also ran for 49 yards. For the season he completed 58 percent of his passes for 1753 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 203 yards per game in total offense for the season.
Kerry Wright is Hines's favorite receiver. The red-shirt junior is 25th in the nation in receptions per game with a 6.5 figure, the same ranking as Clemson's Kevin Youngblood. Wright entered this year with just 18 career receptions, so he could eclipse that total Saturday in just the third game of the year. He has experience as a return man also.
Brandon Lynch, a senior from Hephzibah, GA, is a player to watch on defense for Middle Tennessee. The safety had 75 tackles last year to rank fourth on the team, and he is on his way to eclipsing that figure this year. He already has 20 tackles in 2003, plus an interception and a fumble recovery for two takeaways. He is a big reason Middle Tennessee is 15th in the nation in turnover margin. He had eight tackles at Alabama and had a sack and a fumble recovery at Tennessee in 2002.
Jonathan Bonner is a young linebacker who Tiger offensive coaches will have to be aware of on Saturday. He is second on the team in tackles with 14 and has a pair of sacks. He had just four tackles last year as a freshman, but has made considerable improvement over the last year. He was a two-time All-State selection in Alabama during his high school career.
Facts on Blue Raider Football
• Middle Tennessee's most famous alum in the NFL is Kelly Holcomb, the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and a teammate of former Clemson All-America punter Chris Gardocki.
• Saturday's game is the second of three straight road games against teams from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 for Middle Tennessee. On October 4, Big East member Temple travels to the home of the Blue Raiders.
• Middle Tennessee is a member of the Sun Belt Conference. They joined the league in football in 2001 and promptly tied for the conference championship in that first year with a 5-1 conference record an 8-3 overall record.
• Middle Tennessee joined Division I-A in 1999. It took the program just two years to defeat a team from the SEC, as the Blue Raiders defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville by a 37-28 score in the season opener.
• On October 6, 2001, Middle Tennessee and Idaho played the highest scoring game in Division I history when the Blue Raiders gained a 70-58 victory. The two teams combined for 128 points, 1445 yards of total offense, 18 touchdowns and 67 first downs.
• In the opening game of the 1967 season, Middle Tennessee played Navy Pensacola, a team of former college all-stars. That team was led by 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, who was fulfilling his four-year military commitment before he joined the Dallas Cowboys. Middle Tennessee held Staubach to 16-45 passing for 137 yards and came away with a 28-7 victory.
Whitehurst Goes over 300 yards
Clemson sophomore quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's win over Furman last Saturday. It was quite a performance for Whitehurst, who was making just his seventh start at quarterback for the Tigers. The 301 yards were the most ever by a Clemson quarterback against Furman.
The 301-yard figure ranks as just the eighth 300-yard passing game in Clemson history for an individual, the second by Whitehurst. He actually holds the Clemson record with 420 passing yards at Duke last year in a 34-31 Clemson victory. He now joins Brandon Streeter as the only quarterbacks in Clemson history with more than one 300-yard passing game. Streeter, now an assistant coach at Charleston Southern, had three during his career from 1997-99.
Whitehurst now has a career passing efficiency rating of 128.44, fourth best in Clemson history. He entered the Furman game ranked 11th, but his performance against the Paladins moved him up seven spots. He now ranks behind just Woody Dantzler (132.46), Mark Fellers (131.30) and Chris Morocco (130.44) on the Clemson career list.
Whitehurst went over the 2000-yard passing in the win over Furman and enters the Middle Tennessee game with 2006. He is also first in Clemson history in career completion percentage (59.35) and is third in interception avoidance. Just 2.88 percent of his pass attempts have been intercepted.
Clemson Career Leaders in Completion Percentage
(Minimum of 150 attempts)
Clemson Career Passing Efficiency Leaders
(Minimum of 100 attempts)
Quarterbacks Have Flourished under Bowden Watching Charlie Whitehurst move up the Clemson career passing efficiency charts should be of no surprise. Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden has a history of developing outstanding quarterbacks since he became a head coach in 1997.
In his two years at Tulane, he guided Shawn King to many school and national records. In fact, in 1998, King led the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 183.3. That year he completed 223-328 passes for 3232 yards, 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions. That 183.3 rating remains the all-time NCAA record for passing efficiency rating over the course of a season.
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. Ramsey was 17-23 for 185 yards in the Redskins season opening victory over the New York Jets.
Since Bowden has been at Clemson, 54 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. Whitehurst is currently ahead of that pace at 65.6 percent for the season. 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.
Youngblood Ties Career High
Kevin Youngblood tied a career high with 10 catches against Furman. He had 10 catches against Louisiana Tech last year for 89 yards. Ironically, that was also the second game of the season. He is now third in the ACC and 25th in the nation in receptions per game with 13 in the two games.
Youngblood's 10 receptions were the most ever by a Clemson player against Furman. He now joins Rod Gardner (3), Perry Tuttle (2), Tony Horne (2) and J.J. McKelvey (2) as the only players in Clemson history to have two or more double figure reception games. Youngblood's 10 catches were just one off the single game record of 11 set by Rod Gardner vs. Marshall in 1999 and Phil Rogers vs. North Carolina in 1965. Clemson lost both of those games, so Youngblood's performance tied the mark for receptions in a Clemson victory.
Youngblood has now caught at least one pass in 17 consecutive games dating back to the 2000 season. He won't set that record as Jerry Butler holds the mark with 36 in a row, including every game he played over his last three seasons. Youngblood has had at least 100 yards in two of the last three games, as he had 7-134 in the Tangerine Bowl. The graduate student now has 85 career receptions, 14th on the Clemson career list. He has 124 receiving yards for the year and 940 for his career. Thus he needs just 60 yards to become the 20th player in Clemson history to reach 1000 receiving yards in a career.
Walker Leads Offensive Line
Clemson's offensive line has been led by graduate student Gregory Walker. The starting right tackle had one of his best games as a Clemson Tiger in the win over Furman when he graded 93 percent from the offensive line coaches for his 67 plays. He had 12.5 knockdown blocks in the game six more than any other Clemson player. He also had two intimidation blocks and graded 99 percent in terms of effort grade. He was named the Clemson offensive player of the week by the Tiger coaching staff for the Furman game.
Walker is in his second year as a starter. He has started 15 consecutive games entering the Middle Tennessee game. Last year he led the team in intimidation blocks with 24 and was second to Gary Byrd in knockdown blocks with 93. He led the team in film grade from the coaches seven times, more than any other Tiger offensive lineman. The native of Sumter leads the team in knockdown blocks this year through two games with 17.5.
Hill Leads ACC in Tackles for Loss
The early season favorite for most improved player on the Clemson football team would be junior linebacker LeRoy Hill. The native of Haddock, GA leads the ACC in tackles for loss with six and is among the league leaders in total tackles with 29 through just two games. He had 29 tackles all of last year in 13 games, now has reached that total in just two games in 2003. Hill played in all 13 games last year, all in reserve. He was the top special teams tackler on the squad with 21, but played just 47 snaps from scrimmage at linebacker. He spent the 2002 season as a backup behind Eric Sampson. He has moved to middle linebacker and has flourished. He had just one tackle or loss last year and now has six this year. He has 12 more tackles than any other Clemson player and has averaged a tackle every 3.58 plays.
Dean Contributing on Special Teams
Clemson has played three first-year freshmen in each of the first two games. Marion Dukes and Brandon Pilgrim have both played on the offensive line in each game. Jad Dean has handled the kickoffs for the Tigers.
Clemson leads the ACC in kickoff return defense, allowing just 25 total kickoff return yards in two attempts. Dean has had a lot to do with that. In six kickoffs he has had four touchbacks. Only once has the opposition returned a kickoff past the Clemson 20. Last year Clemson had just nine touchbacks all year on 67 kickoffs, so Dean is already half way to the total for the entire 13 games of 2002.
Howard Scores Touchdown
J.J. Howard was a key reserve on three Clemson bowl teams from 2000-02. But, in his 15 plays per game, he usually came through with a big play. Regarded as one of the top athletes on the team, he is the first football player in school history to bench press 450 pounds, vertical jump 44 inches and run a sup 4.5 time in the 40 yard run.
Howard is now a starter in his final season, and the big plays have continued. He had the ultimate big play in the win over Furman when he picked up a fumble and raced 17 yards for a touchdown. It was the first takeaway (fumble or interception) of his Clemson career and it was the first touchdown by a Clemson defensive player since last year's Georgia game when Bryant McNeal raced 55 yards for a score after a Bulldog fumble.
Howard had five total tackles, the fumble recovery and a seven-yard sack and was named the top defensive player by the Clemson coaches for the performance against the Paladins. For the first two games he has eight tackles and three quarterback pressures.
Clemson Defense Holds Furman under 200 Yards
Clemson's defense held Furman to 174 yards of total offense in the Tigers 28-17 victory. It was the best total defense performance by the Tigers since Clemson allowed just 159 yards in a victory over Wake Forest in the 2000 season. Furman gained less than 100 yards rushing and less than 100 yards passing in last Saturday's game. That was the first time Clemson held an opponent under 100 yards in both areas since the 2000 Citadel game. The Citadel had just 57 yards rushing and 48 passing in that game that was the opener of the 2000 season. Last Saturday's game was just the sixth time in the last 10 years that Clemson has held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing and under 100 yards passing in the same game.
Leading the way defensively in terms of tackles for the second straight week was junior linebacker LeRoy Hill, who had 13 total tackles. Twelve of the tackles were first hits. For the second straight week, the native of Georgia had three tackles for loss. John Leake added 10 tackles in his 50 plays, while Travis Pugh and Jamaal Fudge added seven tackles apiece. Clemson's defense collected 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Clemson had four sacks in the season opener with Georgia.
Henry Catches Pass, Leads to Touchdown
William Henry, and Curtis Baham each made their first career receptions in the victory over Furman on September 6. Baham, a sophomore from Louisiana, is a receiver, so no surprise there. But, Henry is an offensive tackle. He caught a deflected pass, ran five yards, fumbled, then Duane Coleman recovered and ran the final nine yards for a touchdown.
Henry was the first Clemson offensive lineman to catch a pass since Will Merritt did it against Marshall in 1999, the first game of the Tommy Bowden era. He was just nine yards from becoming the first Tiger offensive lineman to score a touchdown since the 1966 South Carolina game. That year Harry Olszewski scored when he recovered a fumble snap on the center-quarterback exchange, caught the ball and rambled 12 yards for a score.
In case you are wondering how that play was scored statistically…Henry was credited with a reception for five yards. Coleman was credited with nine reception yards and a reception touchdown, but no reception. Confused! Charlie Whitehurst was credited with 14 yards passing and touchdown pass. The reason Coleman does not get a catch is because you can't credit two receptions on the same play. The catch always goes to the first receiver in a fumble situation.