Clemson Finally Back in Death Valley
This is Homecoming weekend on the Clemson campus, and it has a special meaning for the Tiger football team because they haven't played a game at home in 34 days. This year's schedule has been among the most challenging in years and that includes evaluation from a calendar standpoint. This is the first time since 1984 that Clemson has gone 34 days without a home game. William Perry's final team also went 34 days (September 2 through October 5) without playing in Death Valley.
Clemson just finished a stretch of three straight games on the road. The last time Clemson had to do that was 1994 when Clemson played at Georgia, at Duke and at Florida State in successive games. Clemson also had three straight games on the road in 1990 and the aforementioned 1984 season. The 1984 streak also had an open date weekend (as this year's schedule did) during that stretch of three straight road games. You have to go all the way back to 1965 to find the last time Clemson played four straight road games.
And, the Tigers haven't been playing a weak schedule on the three road lately. Texas A&M (23rd), Florida State (7th) and Virginia (6th) are all ranked in the top 25 of the latest AP poll. When Clemson played Florida State and Virginia on the road back to back the last two games it marked the first time since 1966 that Clemson had to play consecutive games on the road against top 10 teams. The Tigers still have another road game at a top 10 team, as Clemson will travel to third-ranked Miami (FL) on November 6.
Clemson Successful on Homecoming
Over the years Clemson has had great success on homecoming and Tiger fans hope that continues on Saturday. The first homecoming game at Clemson was in 1922, a 21-0 loss to Centre. Clemson was 0-4-1 through its first five homecoming games, so it is surprising that the tradition continued. Clemson defeated Auburn in 1927 by a 3-0 score for its first homecoming victory.
There is no record of a homecoming game in 1930 or 1938, but the event has been held in conjunction with a football game every year since 1939, even through the war years. Clemson has a 58-19-3 overall on homecoming games, a .743 winning percentage.
The Tigers are 28-3-2 on homecoming since the 1971 season. The only three losses since 1971 have been to Georgia Tech in 1989, Virginia in 1997 and 2001 to North Carolina. Clemson defeated Virginia in overtime on homecoming last year, 30-27, and Wake Forest by a 31-23 count in 2002.
This is the first time Clemson has played a non-conference game on homecoming since 1993 when the Tigers met East Tennessee State.
First time Winners at Death Valley
Utah State will attempt to become just the second first-time visitor in the last 27 years to win at Death Valley. The only opponent since 1978 to win in its first visit to Clemson was Marshall, a 13-10 winner in the season opener of the 1999 season, Tommy Bowden's first game as head coach. Prior to that, the last first-appearance winner at Clemson was Notre Dame in 1977.
Utah State is the 45th different team to come to Clemson Memorial Stadium and the previous 44 have a record of 11-32-1 in their first game at Clemson. Three of the 11 first-time winners (Alabama, Kentucky, Marshall) have beaten the Tigers by the exact same score, 13-10.
A look to Clemson's home record over the years shows why the Tigers are anxious to return to Death Valley. Clemson has a record of 296-114-15 at home over the years, a .714 winning percentage. Clemson is 244-254-25 away from home, a .490 winning percentage for those 523 games on an opponent's home field. Clemson is 55-44-5 in neutral site games. Overall, Clemson has won 58.7 percent of its games over the years.
Clemson has a 223-88-7 record in Death Valley (since 1942), a .712 winning percentage for 318 games. Tommy Bowden has followed the lead of his predecessors when it comes to playing at home. He is 24-10 so far in his 34 home games, a .706 winning percentage. If he leads the Tigers to victory against Utah State that record will be 25-10, or a 714 winning percentage, the exact same home winning percentage as Clemson's home winning percentage since the Tigers first started playing the sport in 1896.
Clemson vs. Utah State History
Clemson and Utah State have never met on the gridiron, but the two schools did meet in an NCAA Tournament basketball game in 1980. In fact, it was the first NCAA Tournament game in Clemson history, a March 6, 1980 game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, UT. Clemson won that contest 76-73 behind 22 points from All-ACC guard Billy Williams and 13 points and nine rebounds from Larry Nance. The Tigers went on to reach the Elite Eight of the Tournament, the only time in history a Clemson men's basketball team has reached the Final Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Utah State is a member of the Sun Belt Conference, an affiliation it will end in 2005 when the Aggies join the Western Athletic Conference. Clemson is 1-0 against teams in the Sun Belt and that game took place just last year when Clemson defeated Middle Tennessee 37-14 at Death Valley.
Utah State, who will be playing a game in the state of South Carolina for the first time ever, has played two games against current ACC members, but both schools weren't in the ACC at the time of the game. In 1975 Utah State dropped a close 17-8 decision at Florida State. Three years later the Aggies lost at Miami (FL) by a 17-16 score.
Utah State Update
Utah State and Clemson have similar statistics entering Saturday's game at Death Valley. Both have had difficulty in terms of rushing yards per game, but average over 200 yards per game passing. Both teams have had problems with turnovers as well. Utah State committed six turnovers in its eight point loss to North Texas last Saturday.
The Aggies of fifth-year head coach Mick Dennehy, a 1973 Montana graduate, have a 2-4 record entering Saturday's game. Two of the losses have been to nationally prominent programs Alabama and Utah. Utah State recorded a strong win when it won at UNLV over the Rebels team coached by former National Championship coach (Southern Cal) John Robinson.
Travis Cox is the leader of the offense from the quarterback position. The senior from Hyrum, Utah was a second-team All-Sun Belt Conference choice last year when he completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 2791 yards and 18 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He is in his second year as a starter, as he started all 12 games a year ago. He led the Sun Belt Conference in total offense in 2003, thanks in part to his first start of the year when he threw for 280 yards against Utah.
This season, Cox has completed 55.7 percent of his passes, but has been plagued by interceptions, as he has 13 in six games. He has thrown for eight touchdowns. His favorite target is Tony Pennyman, a senior from Hayward, CA who had just 10 catches for 88 yards all last year. But, in 2004, he has 29 catches for 440 yards and two scores, including a 79-yard catch and run. Kevin Robinson, also the top punt returner in the nation, is second on the team with 20-265 and two scores.
Utah State is 115th in the nation in rushing, and is led by Chris Forbes with 127 yards in 43 attempts. He is the only player over 100 yards rushing for the season for the Aggies who had 1300 yards rushing as a team a year ago.
The defense is led by Robert Watts, who has 40 tackles and two interceptions for 100 return yards. The senior linebacker from Lancaster, CA who has 31 career starts, led the team in tackles last year with 118. Jared Johnstun is second on the club in tackles with 39, while Antonio Taylor has 38 stops to go with two interceptions for 71 return yards.
Utah State is coming off a 31-23 loss to North Texas last Saturday. Jamario Thomas, one of the top rushers in the nation, had 256 yards in 38 attempts to lead North Texas. Cox threw for 290 yards for Utah State, but he had four interceptions and lost two fumbles. With North Texas leading 24-20 in the third period, Utah State was driving for the lead touchdown when Cox fumbled and it was recovered by John Covington of North Texas, who returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown. Neither team scored in the fourth period.
Utah State Football History
Many Clemson fans might not be familiar with Utah State's history, but the Aggies have had some prominent players and coaches over the years.
·Merlin Olsen, a 14-time All-Pro with the Las Angeles Rams from 1963-76 was an All-American at Utah State. He was also well known as a color commentator on NFL football for NBC, and for his role in the NBC series "Little House on the Prairie."
·Cornell Green played college basketball at Utah State, not football, but he went on to a five-time Pro Bowl career with the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
·McCarthur Lane was a first-round draft pick out of Utah State in 1968, who went on to a Pro Bowl career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
·Jim Turner was the placekicker for the New York Jets for many years and played in two Super Bowls, one with the Jets in 1968 and one with Denver in 1977.
·John Ralston served as head coach at Utah State from 1959-62 before he moved on to Stanford where he was the head coach when Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy and a Rose Bowl in 1970.
·Bruce Snyder was the head coach at Utah State from 1976-82 before he became the head coach at California. He led the Golden Bears to victory against Clemson in the 1992 Citrus Bowl, then took Arizona State to the 1997 Rose Bowl.
Clemson-Maryland Game Time Set
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced on Monday that the Clemson vs. Maryland game on October 23 will kickoff at 12 noon in Death Valley. The game eill be televised by Jefferson Pilot.
Whitehurst All-Time Passing Yardage Leader
Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst became Clemson's career leader in completions in the Texas A&M game. He had 20 completions in that contest (third consecutive game with exactly 20) and now has 497 for his career entering the Utah State game.
Whitehurst established another Clemson career record in the loss at Virginia when he became Clemson's career passing yardage leader. Whitehurst completed 16-28 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against the Cavaliers. He entered the game needing just 80 passing yards to break Woody Dantzler's record of 6037. His performance at Virginia now gives him 6124 for his career. The next record in range is the touchdown pass record. Whitehurst now has 37 for his career at Clemson, second in Clemson history behind Dantzler's 41. Not bad considering Whtiehurst is just a junior and has played just 27 games, 23 as a starter.
Whitehurst owns 35 Clemson records. He became Clemson's career leader in passing attempts at Florida State and now has 850. He also still holds the record for completion percentage at 58.5, ahead of Dantzler's 57.8. Whitehurst is third in school history in terms of total offense with 6191, trailing only Dantzler (8798), and Greene (6786).
Whitehurst threw for 275 yards in Clemson's loss to Georgia Tech after recording 288 in the opener against Wake Forest. He had 192 passing yards at Texas A&M breaking his Clemson record streak of eight straight games with at least 200 yards passing. In fact, his streak was eight straight with at least 246 yards through the air. He has thrown for at least 246 yards in 17 of his 22 games as a starter. Whitehurst is now 13-10 as a starter in his Clemson career, 8-3 at home, 4-6 on the road and 1-1 at neutral site.
Kick Return Men on Display
Fans will need to pay attention to special teams plays with the same concentration they use while watching regular scrimmage plays in Saturday's game between Clemson and Utah State. Two of the top kick return men in the nation will be on display when Clemson meets Utah State.
Utah State's Kevin Robinson is a freshman wide receiver who is leading the nation in punt returns with a 36.0 average. He has two punt returns for touchdowns, including a 90-yarder, one of just five players nationally with two punt returns for touchdowns this season. Clemson will have to spend a lot of time on punt coverage over the coming weeks as Miami (FL) return man Devin Hester is second in the nation in punt returns with a 33.7 average, and also has two punt returns for touchdowns.
Robinson's 36.0 average so far this season is way ahead of the all-time NCAA record for a single season. The record is 25.9 yards per return by Bill Blackstock of Tennessee in 1951, one of just two players in NCAA history to average over 25 yards a punt return for the course of a season.
Robinson is in his first year with the Utah State varsity and is a native of Fresno, CA. His brother, John Rushing, played defensive back at Washington State and is now the secondary coach at Utah State.
Clemson has its own weapon in terms of kick returns in Justin Miller, who is also a starting cornerback for the Tigers. Miller ranks third in the nation and first in the ACC in kickoff return average with a 34.3 figure. His season performance includes an NCAA record 282 kickoff return yards at Florida State on September 25, a game in which he also had two returns for touchdown, just the 10th player in NCAA history to have two kickoff returns for touchdown in the same game.
Miller also has a punt return for a score and is the only player in the nation with three total kick returns for touchdown this year.
With Miller's performance this year, he is now first in ACC history in career kickoff return average with a 31.3 figure, 3.2 yards per return against of former South Carolina player Dickie Harris, who played at South Carolina from 1969-70. Miller is now third in Clemson history in total kickoff return yards with 1408. He is just 145 yards away from breaking Derrick Hamilton's record.
Richardson in Starting Lineup
Clemson first-year freshman Barry Richardson made his first college start at offensive tackle against Virginia on Thursday, October 7 in Charlottesville. Richardson became 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 was 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 played every snap at Virginia and has now played 142 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 brothers lived in the same room while growing up.
Tigers Faced Top 10 Teams in Consecutive Games
Clemson faced consecutive top 10 teams on the road against Florida State and Virginia recently. 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 October 3 poll, Virginia is ranked ninth by USA Today and 10th by AP.
This was the first time Clemson has played consecutive games against top 10 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.
The Tigers then will go back on the road to face first-year ACC school Miami (FL) in the Orange Bowl on November 6, another team currently ranked in the top 10 (third this week). If Miami is still ranked in the top 10 at that time, it would be just the second time in Clemson history and first since 1966 that Clemson has played three road games against top 10 teams in the same season. The 1966 team played at #9 Georgia Tech, at #4 Alabama and at #5 Southern Cal, all within the first five games of the season.
Turnovers a Telling Stat
From a statistical standpoint it is easy to answer the question, "Why does Clemson have a 1-4 record?"
Entering games of October 16, Clemson has committed 15 turnovers on offense, while forcing just three on defense. That is a --12 turnover margin in just five games, meaning Clemson ranks last in the nation in turnover margin, 117 out of 117 teams.
In terms of points off turnover so far this year the Tigers are being outscored 35-0 in that area. Clemson has lost the turnover margin stat in every game this year, with the exception of the Virginia game when both teams had one apiece.
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.
Clemson has a history of doing well in this area. The Tigers are the co-holders of the national record for the fewest turnovers in a season with eight in 1940. Notre Dame also had just eight turnovers in 2000. Clemson is also the co-holder of the record for the fewest lost fumbles in a season as the Tigers lost just two in 1994. Fumbles by running backs have not been a problem of late. In fact, over the last 17 games a Clemson running back has lost just one fumble.
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 and it was just the third quarter.
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 was the first player to do it since Tony Lukins of New Mexico State against Tulsa on October 6, 2001.
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 16, Miller stands third in the nation in kickoff returns with a 34.3 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 34.3 average on kickoff returns and ranks 21st in the nation in punt 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.
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