A Fresh Start

Head coach Tommy Bowden says the Tigers are starting their second season this evening against Virginia.

Not being able to start the season over literally, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden wants his players to look at tonight's game at Virginia as the "start" of a new seven-game schedule.

The Tigers (1-3, 1-2 ACC) have had a bye week to get ready for the unbeaten Cavaliers, and in addition to the usual things, Bowden has tried to keep his team's mental outlook upbeat.

"You do not want the team to get discouraged," he said. "We've played four games and had 14 giveaways. Make that seven and we've probably got a different record."

The Tigers have emphasized improved tackling and eliminating dropped balls and turnovers since their loss to Florida State, a third straight setback after the double-overtime comeback victory over Wake Forest in the opener.

"The game will be the true indication of whether we've improved in those areas or not," Bowden said. "They've been addressed, they've been practiced on, drilled on. Now it will be the time Thursday to see if we took it to heart."

Bowden said he saw no reason for a major overhaul to an offense that ranks next-to-last in the ACC. The 14 turnovers, magnified by the defense's lack of takeaways (one interception, one fumble recovery), have been the major problem, he said.

"I'm anxious to see how well we'll play without turning the ball over," he said.

Also, Bowden called the schedule, which included trips to Texas A&M and Florida State the last two outings, "unforgiving." The Tigers started with two home games and have been away the last two outings.

"The schedule is what it is," he said, "but had it been a little different, we probably could have turned the ball over as much as we did and be 3-1."

One thing in Clemson's favor is that the Tigers know they turned things around when they were in a similar situation near the end of last year. They came off a loss at Wake Forest and won their last four games, starting with a victory over Florida State.

"Last year our backs were to the wall," he said, "and this year our backs are to the wall but in different ways. Last year we were 5-4 with our back to the wall. This year we are 1-3 with our back to the wall."

After the game at Virginia, the Tigers get a bit of a break with a home game Oct. 16 against Utah State in their next outing. But then Maryland and North Carolina State visit the next two weeks before the Tigers go to Miami Nov. 6.

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