Defense Stumbles Again

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Coming into the season, there were several questions concerning the Clemson football team. But most of them had to do with the offense and whether or not the newcomers would be able to successfully fill the shoes of those who left from the previous year.

It was assumed that the defense, with the return of nearly all the key players from the year before, would be likely be the strength of the team.

However, after three games into the 2004 season, there are some serious worries regarding the play of the Tigers defense. And that was never more evident than after watching what took place in Texas A&M's 27-6 victory Saturday night at Kyle Field.

The Aggies literally ran over, around and through Clemson to the tune of 324 yards. They also threw for another 178.

Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal became the school's first quarterback to run and pass for more than 100 yards in the same game since 1991. But he wasn't the only one doing damage to Clemson.

Tailback Courtney Lewis rushed for 165 yards on 28 carries.

All told, the Clemson defense was gave up 324 yards rushing on 53 carries. That's the highest amount of rushing yards for the Aggies since gaining 336 against North Texas in 1997. And the last time they had more rushing yards at Kyle Field was in 1996, when they gained 425 against Louisiana Tech.

"It looked like we had a lot of missed tackles late in the game," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "Until I look at the tape, I won't know if it was technique or if we just gave up on the blocking. … "We knew (McNeal) was fast. They gave us some isolated type formations with no backs to try and man up and isolate him. We couldn't tackle the kid. Whether it was poor tackling, scheme, or whether it was him, I'll have to look at the tape to determine."

With seven of the players back on defense from last year's team that was highly ranked in scoring defense, it's surprising the trouble the Tigers (1-2 overall, 1-1 ACC) are having.

Clemson is yielding more than 28 points a game and allowing 230 yards rushing.

And to make matters worse, the secondary, which was considered to be one of the best in the nation before the season started, has struggled in all three games.

Cornerbacks Tye Hill and Justin Miller have yet to record an interception. In fact, the defense as a whole has created only one turnover – an interception by Tremaine Billie.

"You don't mind passing stats if you're shutting the running game down and that's the only way they're moving the ball," Bowden said. When they're throwing the ball and running the ball, that's not very good." Top Stories