Tigers Confident for Opener

When the Clemson and Wake Forest get set to do battle this Saturday in Death Valley, it won't be anything like the tradional games played between these two teams.

Just one year removed from a 45-17 loss to the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, the Tigers know that Wake Forest is not a team to be taken lightly.

In fact, in looking at each of the last three games played between these two schools, you'll quickly discover that Wake Forest delivers more of a punch than almost any other team on Clemson's schedule.

In 2001, it took a late Woodrow Dantzler touchdown run and an interception by Charles Hafely in the endzone to lift the Tigers to a 21-14 win.

Two years ago, it was former Tiger Brian Mance who stripped the ball away from running back Chris Barclay deep in Clemson territory with just seconds remaining to preserve a 31-23 home win.

Last season, Wake Forest dominated the line of scrimmage and rushed for 321 yards in a 28-point blowout win over Clemson at Groves Stadium. It was a game in which the outcome was never in doubt, from start to finish.

If you haven't figured it out by now, this isn't the same team that Clemson owns a 53-15-1 record against. This is a team under the direction of third year head coach Jim Grobe, that means business.

Chris Barclay led the ACC in rushing (99.3 ypg) and recorded the second-best rushing season in school history with 1,192 yards last season.
"We've had three barn burners with those guys, all three years," Grobe said. "I think typically when two teams compete against each other really well it becomes a rivalry, whether it started out that way or not.

"I think in the past we haven't been able to make the Clemson game a rivalry. But with the way we've played with them the last few years, it may have become a little more intense."

"Intense" is right, and that intensity is something that the Deacons can count on seeing Saturday afternoon shortly after the 3:30 kick-off in Death Valley.

"We look at playing Wake Forest for the first game as a positive thing," said senior defensive end Maurice Fountain. "It's the key to our season because it's the first game of the year. If we can get off to a great start, we can keep it rolling like we did at the end of last year."

Fountain, along with the rest of the Tigers' defensive line, will be instrumental in providing the support needed to stop Wake Forest's misdirection running attack.

And it won't be easy.

Led by the league's top returning rusher, Chris Barclay, the Deacons figure to use their misdirection running game to confuse and frustrate opponents once again this season.

Barclay led the ACC in rushing (99.3 ypg) and recorded the second-best rushing season in school history with 1,192 yards last season.

"He's a good back," said linebacker Leroy Hill. "He's one of those guys that can be hard to find sometime, but this is a game that is still on our minds. It's going to be real important for us to get off to a good start this year and I'm pretty confident we're going to."

The Tigers have been waiting more than nine months to prove last year's game against the Deacons was a fluke.

Now, with just four days remaining until the season opener, that waiting is almost over.

With two wins over top 10 teams and a pounding of archrival South Carolina under its belt since last November's loss in Winston-Salem, a new found confidence seems to have engulfed the football program.

"We are more confident," said Charlie Whitehurst. "But we know what's in front of us. We aren't looking past Wake Forest because we all know what can happen against that team. They are dangerous. We are just looking forward to having the opportunity to play them for the first game."

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