Tigers Set to Battle Virginia

Richardson in Starting Lineup
Clemson first-year freshman Barry Richardson will start at offensive tackle against Virginia on Thursday, October 7 in Charlottesville. Head Coach Tommy Bowden made the announcement on Tuesday, September 28. Bowden also said there would be three other position changes on offense in his starting lineup. Curtis Baham will be a starter as a wide receiver in the three receiver set over Kelvin Grant, Duane Coleman will start at running back over Reggie Merriweather and Nathan Bennett will start over Roman Fry at a guard position.

Richardson will become the first Clemson first-year freshman offensive lineman to start a game since Stacy Long started at offensive tackle against Georgia in 1986. Long, who was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame on September 4, didn't last long in that game against the Bulldogs, as he played just seven snaps in the entire game, but Clemson did gain the victory, 31-28.

Since freshman eligibility returned to college football for the 1972 season, only three first-year freshman offensive linemen have started a game for the Tigers. In addition to Long, James Farr started at center against Rice in the opening game of 1980 and Joe Bostic started the last two games of the 1975 season at offensive tackle (Maryland and South Carolina). Thus, Richardson will be just the fourth to start since 1972.

Richardson's ascension to the starting lineup is not that big a surprise because he has played 74 snaps over the last two games, 38 at Texas A&M and 36 at Florida State. He played the entire second half in Tallahassee and received high grades for his performance from line coach Brad Scott. Richardson did not allow a sack against the Seminoles and had an 81 percent technique grade. Richardson has played 93 snaps for the season.

Richardson, 6-7 and 350 pounds, came to Clemson from Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC where he played for Coach Bob Hayes. The 18-year-old graduated a year early from high school, the first scholarship player to leave high school a year early to come to Clemson. His brother Nate Richardson, is 6-4 and 285 pounds and is a starting tackle at South Carolina State as a red-shirt freshman. Believe it or not, both men lived in the same room while growing up.

Clemson On Thursday Night
This will be the sixth Clemson appearance on ESPN's Thursday Night College Football package. The Tigers are 0-5 in their previous appearances, including 0-4 under Tommy Bowden. Clemson lost to Georgia Tech in the 1998 season under Tommy West, then lost at Virginia Tech in a Thursday in Blacksburg Tommy Bowden's first year (1999). Clemson lost a pair of Thursday night games in 2002, at Florida State and at home against NC State. Clemson lost by just two against ACC MVP Phillip Rivers and NC State in Raleigh, 17-15.

It should be pointed out that Clemson has been the underdog in all five Thursday evening games and four of the five losses have been to teams that have been ranked in the top 25 of the AP poll. The 1998 Georgia Tech team finished with a 10-2 record and was ranked ninth in the final poll. The 1999 Virginia Tech team finished 11-1 and was ranked second. Florida State was ranked 11th entering the Thursday evening game in Tallahassee in 2002 and NC State was ranked ninth that same year entering the game. That 2002 NC State team finished with a school record 11 wins. Last year's NC State team was not ranked, but finished 8-5.

Playing on Thursday is not new for Clemson historically. Clemson and South Carolina used to play on "Big Thursday" each year between 1909 and 1959. The game was played the Thursday of State Fair week in Columbia. Clemson has not won a game played on a Thursday since 1963 when Clemson defeated South Carolina on Thanksgiving Day. That game was moved from the previous Saturday due to the death of President John Kennedy.

Clemson has played 121 games on Thursday in its history and the Tigers are 52-59-10 overall on that day. Clemson is 500-321-30 on Saturdays in history, a 60.6 percent winning mark.

Tommy Bowden is 39-27 in his career at Clemson. That breaks down to 37-20 on Saturdays (65 percent) and 2-7 on the other six days of the week (22 percent). The two non-Saturday wins under Bowden were in bowl games, including last year's Peach Bowl win over Tennessee, which was played on a Friday.

Miller's Return Service
One of Clemson's most popular players on the 1978 Clemson team that finished with an 11-1 record and number-six final national ranking was Willie Jordan. He handled both punt and kickoff returns for the Tigers in addition to serving as a starting cornerback. That year he printed up his own tee-shirts that read "Willie's Return Service". He ranked fourth in the nation in punt returns that year and averaged 21 yards per kickoff return.

Twenty-six years later Justin Miller is having an even bigger impact on the Clemson return game. In fact, he is establishing standards that have not been seen previously. Miller set an NCAA record for kickoff return yards in a single game when he gained 282 yards in that category at Florida State on September 25. He shattered the previous mark (248 kickoff return yards on 10 returns by Tyrone Watley of Iowa State vs. Nebraska in 1997) by 34 yards. Miller had the record broken by his fourth return.

Miller's day included a record tying two kickoff returns for touchdown to tie another NCAA record. His first quarter 97-yarder gave Clemson a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and his 86-yarder off a Florida State free kick after a safety brought Clemson within 24-22 in the third period. Miller became the first ACC player in history to have two kickoff returns for touchdown in the same game and the 10th different player (11th occasions) to have two kick returns for touchdown in the same game. Rocket Ismail of Notre Dame (1988-90) is the only player to do it twice.

Miller already has three kick returns for touchdowns this year, the two kickoffs against Florida State and a 69-yard punt return against Wake Forest in the season opener. Entering the games of October 2, Miller stood third in the nation in kickoff returns with a 36.4 yard average. He now has a career average of 31.3, which is not only a Clemson record, but an ACC record.

Miller has five career kick returns for touchdowns, three kickoff and two punt returns. The NCAA record for a career is eight, set by Cliff Branch of Colorado in 1970 and 1971. Miller has a 12.7 average on punt returns to go with his 36.4 average on kickoff returns. He is attempting to become the first Clemson player to rank in the top 25 in both categories in the same season since Antwuan Wyatt did it in 1995. Miller is just 207 yards short of Hamilton's career record of 1552 kickoff return yards. He has a 3.2 yards per return lead over Dickie Harris for the kickoff return average mark, a mark that was set in 1970.

Miller Leads ACC in All-Purpose Running
There are many statistical oddities about Justin Miller's season so far. He is currently first in the ACC in all-purpose yardage with a 137-yard average. That is an amazing stat considering he has not played a snap on offense yet this year and obviously has not rushing or receiving yards. He is the only player in the top 64 of the latest NCAA all-purpose running yards without a yard rushing or receiving. No defensive player has ever led the ACC in all-purpose running.

Additionally, Miller actually leads the Clemson team in scoring with 18 points. He also has the team lead in touchdowns, and it is safe to say he is the only defensive player in the nation who leads his team in scoring.

The junior from Owensboro, KY has also been a leader on defense where he has 28 tackles to rank fifth on the team ad has five passes broken up to rank tied for second. He is still looking for his first interception of the season. He has 10 for his career, including eight during his freshman year when he was fifth in the nation in interceptions per game. His diverse accomplishments are also reflected in the ACC player of the week selections. He was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his performance in the opener against Wake Forest, then won special teams honors for his efforts against Florida State. He is the only player to win in two categories so far this year.

Tigers Face Top 15 Teams Next Two Weeks
Clemson is in the process of facing top 12 teams on the road in consecutive games. In the Associated Press poll of September 19, Florida State was ranked 8th prior to its game with Clemson, 11th by USA Today. In the September 26 poll, Virginia was ranked 12th with a 4-0 record. The Cavs were also 12th by USA Today.

Clemson has not had to play consecutive games against top 12 opponents since the 1983 season when the Tigers defeated a 10th ranked North Carolina team 16-3 and an 11th ranked Maryland team, 52-27, in November. This will be the first time Clemson has played consecutive games against top 12 teams on the road since 1966 when the Tigers played at #9 Georgia Tech and at #4 Alabama in consecutive non-conference games.

Clemson has had to play consecutive games against teams ranked in the top dozen in the nation just four times in its history. In addition to the 1983 listing, the other seasons were in 1966 (vs. #9 Georgia Tech and #4 Alabama), 1963 (vs. #4 Oklahoma and #9 Georgia Tech), and 1955 (vs. #2 Maryland and #12 Auburn). Clemson did not win any of those games.

Here are some other notes about Clemson's difficult schedule in 2004:

·The Virginia game is Clemson's third straight road game, the first time Clemson has played three straight road games since 1994.

·Clemson will return home on October 16 to face Utah State for the first time in history. It will be Clemson's first home game in 35 days. This is the longest stretch without a home game during the regular season since 1984.

·The Tigers then will go back on the road to face first-year ACC school Miami (FL) in the Orange Bowl on November 6. Clemson has not played Miami (FL) since 1956, but the Tigers have played in their stadium. Clemson won the 1982 Orange Bowl, by a 22-15 score over Nebraska to win the 1981 National Championship at the Orange Bowl. It will be Clemson's first game in that facility since that triumph.

Clemson Special Teams Productive
Clemson has been solid in terms of special teams this year. Here are some facts about Clemson's special teams performance so far in 2004:

·Clemson is sixth in the nation in kickoff returns with a 31.7 average. The Tigers are second in the ACC, with Virginia, the next opponent, the only ACC team with a higher ranking in that category.

·Clemson has blocked two punts this year, one by Chansi Stuckey against Wake Forest and one by C.J. Gaddis against Florida State. Both blocked punts resulted in safeties.

·Clemson special teams have scored 22 points so far this season on three returns for touchdown (all by Justin Miller) and the four points off two safeties.

·Punter Cole Chason is fourth in the ACC in punting with a 41.2 average, up from his 38.5 average of last year.

·The average start for Clemson opponents after a kickoff is the 22-yard line. Jad Dean has had nine touchbacks in 16 kickoffs and 13 of the 16 the opposition has started at its own 20 or worse. With Clemson's kickoff return prowess, the Tigers have a 14-yard advantage in average starting field position after kickoffs (22 vs. the 36), through the first four games.

Coleman Returns to Hometown
Clemson starting defensive tackle Eric Coleman is a native of Charlottesville, VA and will be returning to his home city this week. Coleman attended Charlottesville High School, where he played tight end and defensive end, then played one season (2000) at Fork Union Prep, which is also located in Virginia. He had 15 sacks and 113 tackles at Fork Union.

Coleman has 11 tackles, including two tackles for loss so far this season as a starter in every game. He has played 219 snaps, more than any other Clemson defensive lineman. He had his best game against Georgia Tech when he had four tackles, including two tackles for loss. This is the first year Coleman has been a starter, but he had played 677 plays over his first three years. In 2003 he had three tackles in 25 plays as a reserve in Clemson's overtime victory against Virginia, and in 2002 had two tackles in 21 snaps in a five-point loss to the Cavaliers.

Clemson 7-2 vs. Al Groh
Clemson has a 7-2 overall record against Al Groh coached teams. The Tigers were 6-0 against him when he coached at Wake Forest and are 1-2 since he took over at Virginia, his alma mater, in 2001. All three of the Clemson vs. Virginia games since he took over have been very close, as they have been decided by five points or less each time. In fact, two of the games have been decided with one second or less remaining.

The 2001 game at Clemson was won by Virginia 26-24 when Billy McMullen caught a one-yard touchdown pass with one second left. Virginia won the 2002 contest by a 22-17 score, then last year the Tigers won in overtime 30-27 on a touchdown catch by Kevin Youngblood from Charlie Whitehurst on the last play of the first overtime.

Moving the ball on offense has not been a problem for Clemson against the Cavaliers since Groh has been at Virginia. For the three games Clemson has averaged 27 first downs, 188 yards per game rushing, 256 per game passing for 444 yards of total offense. Clemson has averaged 5.4 yards per play and completed 68 percent of its passes in those three games combined.

Kelly Has Played Well vs. Virginia
Yusef Kelly needs just 27 yards to reach 1000 for his career and it would be appropriate if he reached the milestone against Virginia . Kelly has had success against Virginia in his Clemson career, gaining 160 yards in 42 carries in two games against the Cavaliers.

As a sophomore in 2002 at Charlottesville, he was Clemson's top rusher with 72 yards in 17 attempts for the 52 snaps he played. He also had a career high tying 3 receptions for 26 yards. Last year, he was again Clemson's top rusher with 88 yards in 25 carries in 45 total snaps. It was his only start of the season. He also scored his only touchdown of the 2003 season in that overtime victory.

Kelly was hampered by injury last year and he played just 77 snaps for the season. As stated above 45 of the 77 carries came against the Cavaliers. Kelly started the first two games, then was suspended for the Texas A&M game for a violation of team rules. He traveled to Florida State, but did not play. For his Clemson career, Kelly has 239 carries for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has more yards rushing and more rushing touchdowns than any active Tiger.

The native of Walterboro high school already has his undergraduate degree in marketing.

Hill Among National Leaders Again
Clemson linebacker LeRoy Hill is picking up where he left off last season. During 2003, Hill ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss with 27 and he was also among the top 30 in quarterback sacks with eight in 13 games. This season, Hill already has 10 tackles for loss, including four quarterback sacks. He ranks seventh in the nation in tackles for loss per game and is 10th in quarterback sacks. Manny Lawson of NC State actually leads the nation in sacks and is fourth in tackles for loss so that will be an interesting matchup of defensive players when NC State comes to Clemson on October 30.

Hill was the ACC Defensive Lineman of the week in Clemson's loss to Georgia Tech when he had a season high 14 tackles, including three tackles for loss. He had 13 stops at Florida State, including three tackles for loss and a sack.

Tye Hill (no relation) is another Clemson defender in the national rankings this week. The junior cornerback has seven passes defensed to rank 13th in the nation in that area.

Turnovers a Telling Stat
From a statistical standpoint it is easy to answer the question, "Why does Clemson have a 1-3 record?" Entering games of October 2, Clemson had committed 14 turnovers on offense, while forcing just two on defense. That is a --12 turnover margin in just four games, meaning Clemson ranks last in the nation in turnover margin, 117 out of 117 teams. Clemson ranks 109th in turnovers forced with just two (only Tulane and SMU are lower) and the Tigers are tied for last in committing turnovers with the 14, the same figure at Penn State, Miami (OH) and Oregon State.

In terms of points off turnover so far this year the Tigers are being outscored 28-0 in that area. Clemson has lost the turnover margin stat in every game this year, including the 5-0 differential at Florida State on September 25.

When Tommy Bowden came to Clemson in 1999, his teams were noted for their excellence in that statistics. For the 1997 and 1998 seasons when he was the head coach at Tulane, Bowden's teams finished fifth in the nation in turnover margin.

Prior to this year, his five Clemson teams were 30-9 when at least breaking even in terms of turnover margin and 8-15 when they lost the turnover margin stat. In 2003, when Clemson won nine games, the Tigers were 6-0 when they won the turnover margin statistic. His 2000 team that also won nine games, had a 6-1 record when winning that stat.

Running backs Averaging 5.5 Yards Per Carry
Tommy Bowden has been looking for a breakaway running back since he became the Clemson coach in 1999. In his first three years, Travis Zachery was the leader and had 1027 yards in 2000. Zachery went on to become Clemson's career leader in all-purpose yardage, a record that was broken by Derrick Hamilton in 2003. But Zachery's longest career run was just 52 yards.

Entering the Georgia Tech game, a Clemson running back had just three runs of 50 yards or more under Tommy Bowden, two 52-yard runs by Zachery, and a 50-yard run by Duane Coleman last year against North Carolina. Coleman suffered a broken foot in the preseason (August 10) and has not played yet this year. In the first game of this year, Clemson's longest run by a running back was just 12 yards.

But, that changed against Georgia Tech when running backs Reggie Merriweather and Kyle Browning both had runs of 54 yards or more. Merriweather had a 62-yard run with 8:19 left, then Browning had a 54-yard run with 3:18 remaining. So, Bowden went over five years without a run of more than 52 yards by a running back, then had two five minutes apart.

Merriweather's run was the longest by a Clemson running back since the final game of the 1996 season when Raymond Priester had a 65-yard touchdown run against South Carolina in Death Valley. Browning and Merriweather combined for 170 yards in just 13 carries, a 13.1 average against Georgia Tech. They had 15-79 at Texas A&M.

For the season, Clemson running backs are averaging 5.53 yards per carry, by far the best in Bowden's six seasons at Clemson.

Clemson vs. Virginia Series Notes
·Clemson holds a commanding 35-7-1 lead in the series with Virginia, but the Cavaliers hold 7-6-1 advantage since 1990, including victories in two of the last three games.

·Clemson won the first 29 games of the series before Virginia cracked the win column with a 20-7 victory in Charlottesville in 1990. Ironically, Clemson's first win in the history of the series (in 1955) was also by a 20-7 score.

·Clemson's 29-game winning streak between 1955-90 is tied for the fourth longest winning streak in NCAA history for one team over another. The record is 40 in a row held by Notre Dame over Navy, a streak that is still active heading into the meeting between the two schools this year on October 16.

·Virginia has gained its most success against Clemson when the game has been in September, an example of the Cavaliers traditional good start to a season. Virginia has celebrated five of its seven wins over the Tigers in the month of September, including its trip to Death Valley in 2001, a game it won with just one second left. Virginia is 5-1 against Clemson in the month of September since 1990, but just 2-5-1 in October and November since that year.

·Overall, Clemson is 25-2-1 against Virginia in October and November all-time, but just 10-5 against the Cavs in September. Clemson is 19-3-1 against Virginia in Death Valley and 15-4 in Charlottesville. Clemson won in Richmond in 1971, 32-15, the only neutral site game in the history of the series.

·The only tie in the series took place in 1991, a 20-20 score at Clemson that was also played on homecoming. The Tigers had 511 yards of total offense in that game and did not win, the only game in Clemson history in which Clemson picked up at least 500 yards, yet did not win the game.

·Clemson is 3-2 against Virginia under Tommy Bowden. Bowden picked up his first win as a Clemson head coach in 1999 against George Welsh and the Cavaliers, 33-14 in a game at Clemson. Clemson led that game 33-0, 35 minutes into the game. In 2000, Woody Dantzler led the Tigers to victory with a dazzling performance. Dantzler rushed for 220 yards and passed for 154 leading Clemson to a 31-10 victory.

·The two teams have been ACC rivals since that first meeting in 1955, but the two teams have not played every year since the league was formed in 1953. The two teams did not play in 1961, 1962, 1967, 1968, 1975, and 1976.

·Clemson has had two upset victories over top 15 Virginia teams in Charlottesville in recent history. In 1992 Clemson defeated a 10th ranked Virginia team 29-28 when Clemson overcame a 28-point deficit to gain victory. That is the largest deficit overcome to gain victory in Clemson history. Four years later Tommy West's Tigers upset a 15th ranked Virginia team by a 24-16 score behind the rushing of Kelton Dunnican and Raymond Priester, who both had at least 120 yards rushing in the contest.

Last Season vs. Virginia
Clemson 30, Virginia 27
Clemson won a 30-27 overtime thriller against #24 (USA Today) Virginia when Kevin Youngblood snagged a four-yard fade pattern for the game-winning touchdown. The play was eerily similar (same endzone) to the game-winner two years prior in Death Valley, when Cavalier receiver Billy McMullen was the hero. The Tigers' upset was the first against a ranked opponent since a 47-44 overtime win at #9 Georgia Tech in 2001. The win also upped Clemson's overtime record to 3-0 all-time.

Clemson opened the scoring on its first offensive possession. The Tigers came out with some trickery, as Derrick Hamilton took a reverse 52 yards to move into Virginia territory. Aaron Hunt came on to connect on a 26-yard field goal and give the Tigers the early lead. Clemson struck again in the second quarter, as it put together a 13-play drive that ended with Whitehurst finding Hamilton for a 19-yard touchdown. Defensively, Clemson had its way with Virginia in the first half. Clemson outgained Virginia 272-89, yet only led 10-0 at the break. The Tigers were unable to capitalize on two other red-zone chances.

Virginia came out with a head of steam in the second half, led by 2002 ACC Player-of-the-Year Matt Schaub. He led the Cavaliers on a 12-play, 60-yard scoring drive to cut the lead to 10-7. He completed 10 of the 12 passes on the drive. The Cavaliers got the ball back moments later in great field position, thanks to a 15-yard kick catching interference on the Tigers. Schaub found Patrick Estes wide open in the endzone for a five-yard touchdown four plays later, giving Virginia its first lead at 14-10.

Schaub avoided trouble on the next Cavalier possession after the Tigers were penalized for a costly face mask on third down. Clemson appeared to have Schaub stopped near the goal line. Instead, the drive continued and Schaub marched the Cavaliers down the field. However, Jamaal Fudge made one of the biggest plays of the game when he jarred a ball loose from Heath Miller in the endzone, breaking up a touchdown catch. Virginia settled for a field goal.

Following a series of punts, Clemson got the ball in good field position. Whitehurst was pressured on the first play of the possession and fumbled, but the ball was picked up alertly by Duane Coleman and he ran for a 13-yard net gain. On the very next play, the Tigers returned to the same trick play they used to open the game. But this time, Hamilton threw his first pass of the season. He found Youngblood down the left sideline, and he made it all the way to the one-yard line. Whitehurst ran it in from the one to tie the score for Clemson.

Clemson took a 24-17 lead late in the game after Yusef Kelly pounded the ball into the endzone from 12 yards out. Virginia responded on the ensuing possession, as Alvin Pearman scored with 57 seconds left to send the game to overtime. In overtime, the Tigers forced the Cavaliers to settle for a field goal after LeRoy Hill stuffed Pearman for no gain on third-and-one. That left the door open for Whitehurst, who led Clemson to victory. Coleman made his second big play of the afternoon when he caught a pass from Whitehurst and scampered 12 yards for a key first down. Two plays later, Whitehurst lofted a ball into the endzone and Youngblood used his height advantage to deliver the game-winning score.

Whitehurst, who entered the game with a foot injury, performed well. He was 27-44 for 265 yards and two scores. Youngblood led the receiving corps with nine catches for 87 yards. Clemson rushed for 194 yards, its season-high through the first six games. A primary reason was the return of Kelly to the starting lineup. He had 88 yards rushing. Defensively, Hill had a monster game for the Tigers. He had 11 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage and a sack. Fudge paced the defense with 20 tackles, to go along with his key pass breakup of Miller.

Clemson Has Come Back History Against Virginia
Clemson has come back from a deficit of 13 points or more to win seven times in its history and four of the victories have come against Virginia. Two of those wins have taken place in Charlottesville and two in Clemson.

Clemson's greatest comeback in history took place at Virginia in 1992 when it overcame a 28-0 deficit with 32 minutes left to win 29-28. Louis Solomon, now a high school coach in New Jersey, led that comeback with an option offense. His 64-yard run just before halftime gave Clemson some momentum going into the locker room at halftime. Nelson Welch booted a 32-yard field goal with 55 seconds left to provide the winning margin. Virginia was undefeated and ranked 10th in the nation heading into that game. That remains the greatest comeback in ACC history involving two conference teams.

Clemson's greatest comeback in Death Valley also took place against Virginia. Clemson trailed Virginia by 17 points at home in 1966, but came back to win 40-35. That was the first game that Howard's Rock was present in Death Valley. Coincidence?

Clemson also overcame a 14-point deficit to Virginia in 1980 to win 27-24 in Charlottesville. Bill Smith, now on the Clemson Board of Trustees, returned a block punt for a touchdown to provide a key play in the victory. Obed Ariri then booted a 52-yard field goal with six seconds left to win the game.

Clemson also overcame a 13-point deficit in 1973 to win 32-27.

Clemson's Highest Ranked Wins
When Clemson defeated third-ranked Florida State last year at Clemson it was the highest ranked team Clemson has beaten in its history. Clemson has 12 wins over top 10 teams in its history and three have been recorded by head coach Tommy Bowden. In addition to the win over Florida State, Clemson's win over sixth-ranked Tennessee in the 2004 Gator Bowl was the fourth highest ranked team Clemson has beaten. Bowden and the Tigers also won over a ninth-ranked Georgia Tech team in 2001.

Prior to last year, the highest ranked teams Clemson had beaten were #4 ranked Georgia and #4 Nebraska, both in the 1981 season. Regardless of site, Clemson has 12 wins over top 10 teams in its history, four in Death Valley four on an opponent's home field and four at a neutral site (bowl game).

Clemson has had 25 wins over top 25 teams since 1986 and has had at least one ranked win in 15 of the last 17 seasons. That includes last year's three wins. That was the longest winning streak against ranked teams since the Tigers won three in a row between 1990-91. The record is five straight wins over ranked teams from 1988-89.

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