Two Teams Coming Off Noteworthy Victories
Two teams coming off emotional home field victories will compete in Death Valley on Saturday in the home finale for the Clemson Tigers. Clemson enters the game after defeating third-ranked Florida State, 26- 10, last Saturday evening. That afternoon, Duke ended a 30-game ACC losing streak with a resounding 41-17 victory over a Georgia Tech team that had not lost since losing to Clemson in September.
The Tigers had not beaten Florida State since the Seminoles entered the ACC, and had never defeated Bobby Bowden in Death Valley in six previous meetings. But, Clemson stopped the Florida State running game, limiting the Seminoles to just 11 yards the entire night. The result was a sound victory over the nation's number-three ranked team. It was the highest ranked team Clemson has beaten in its history, topping the two wins over fourth-ranked teams from Georgia and Nebraska in 1981.
Duke ended its four-year drought in ACC play behind the running of Chris Douglas, now the top rusher in the ACC. He carried 30 times for a career high 218 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Duke offense against Tech. Malcolm Ruff had a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown that keyed the defensive performance.
Douglas became the first Duke player to top the 200-yard rushing mark in nine years when he scored on a 27-yard touchdown run with just 2:49 left. The 218 yards were the third highest in school history. It marked the third straight game Douglas had reached at least 100 yards rushing. Overall, Duke had 253 yards rushing against a Georgia Tech team that had allowed a league best 95 yards per game on the ground entering the contest.
For the season, Douglas has 957 yards on the ground and obviously needs just 43 yards rushing to reach the 1000 yard mark. He also has 18 catches out of the backfield, so he will be a prime concern for LeRoy Hill, John Leake and the Clemson defense on Saturday. Douglas averages 124 all-purpose running yards per game, second to Clemson's Derrick Hamilton.
Final Home Game for Tiger Seniors
Saturday will be the final home game for Clemson's 2003 senior class. This year's seniors will attempt to duplicate the "Senior Day" performances of its last five senior classes. Clemson has not lost a "Senior Day" game since 1997 when an eighth-ranked North Carolina team downed the Tigers 17-10. Tommy Bowden has done a good job getting his team ready for Senior Day as he is 4-0 on that day in his career. That includes victories over Duke in 1999 and 2001.
For the fifth straight year Clemson is headed to a bowl game. Nine of the Tigers in this class came to Clemson in 1999, Tommy Bowden's first season. This will be the first group of red-shirt seniors to be a part of five bowl teams since the seniors of 1991. That was a group that included All-Americans Levon Kirkland, Ed McDaniel, Jeb Flesch and many other Tigers of strong character who never lost more than two games in a season in their five years in the program.
The year before Khaleed Vaughn, Chad Jasmin, William Henry, Tony Elliott, Tyrone Lee, Toure Francis, DeJuan Polk, Gregory Walker and Kevin Youngblood came to Clemson the Tigers were 3-8. After red-shirting the 1999 season, they were a part of a Clemson team that started the 2000 season with an 8-0 run and a number-three national ranking, Clemson's highest ranking in 16 years. That team finished 14 th in the nation, the best final ranking for a Clemson team since 1991.
The 2001 season saw the Tigers gain victory over a ninth-ranked Georgia Tech team in Atlanta, followed by a thrilling 45-37 victory at NC State. The 2002 season featured four wins by a touchdown or less, including a third win in four years over South Carolina. Next week they hope to make it four out of five.
As seniors, in 2003, the team is already bowl eligible and gained two wins over top 25 teams, the first Clemson team since 1996 to defeat two ranked teams in the same year. But, one of those ranked wins is arguably the greatest regular season victory in school history, or at least since 1981. This year's seniors are 29-18 overall, so a victory on Saturday would give the group 30 career victories. No Clemson senior class has won 30 games since the seniors of 1993 posted a 32-13-1 record.
This senior class includes Kevin Youngblood, who is now seventh in Clemson history in career receptions. His leaping catch against Virginia provided the Tigers with a walkoff game winning touchdown. Aaron Hunt became Clemson's all-time leading scorer last week when he had 14 points, including four field goals in the epic victory over Florida State.
Gregory Walker has been a starter for three years and joins William Henry, a two-year starter, as common denominators on three Clemson offenses that have averaged at least 400 yards per game.
John Leake and Khaleed Vaughn have been leaders of the Clemson defense for the last three years. Leake, the final signee in this class, is now ranked in the top five in school history in career tackles with 413, while Vaughn has over 20 tackles for loss in his career that already includes three starts in bowl games.
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