Turnovers Changing Season

Head Coach Tommy Bowden was right when he said that turnovers come in cycles. <BR>

When his defense had come up with only two takeaways (one fumble recovery, one interception) through the first four games, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden became concerned enough to call five coaching colleagues about what they were doing to create turnovers.

His conclusion after talking to the likes of Southern California's Pete Carroll and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops: Turnovers tend to go in cycles, and the Tigers eventually will get theirs.

"Eventually" turned out to be Saturday.

The Tigers (4-4, 3-3 ACC) came up with five interceptions and a fumble recovery against North Carolina State, the last interception preserving their 26-20 victory.

"They come in cycles," coach Tommy Bowden said, reiterating his earlier mantra. "We gave 'em away in bunches earlier, and now we're getting 'em in bunches."

The Tigers had only three takeaways through their first five games, when they were 1-4. In their current three-game winning streak, they have nine.

They needed every one against the Wolfpack -- plus a couple of key penalties that nullified two N.C. State touchdown passes on the same drive in the first half. The 16 points Clemson got from the Wolfpack mistakes were the first the Tigers had scored this season following opponents' turnovers.

Three of the five interceptions were especially crucial for the Tigers. The first came early in the second quarter when DT Eric Coleman picked off a short pass and lumbered 20 yards for a touchdown.

The second was a leaping effort by CB Justin Miller in the end zone in the closing seconds of the first half. That prevented the Wolfpack from at least a field goal just before halftime. The game was tied at 10 at the break.

And the third came in the closing seconds with the Tigers protecting a six-point lead. DE Charles Bennett grabbed QB Jay Davis' desperate fourth-down throw at his 4-yard line and returned it 39 yards to kill the clock.

The victory restored a great bit of confidence to a Clemson team that had been shaken by its stumbling start. The Tigers now catch a Miami team Saturday that is reeling from its first loss. With a trip to Duke on Nov. 13 and a home game against in-state rival South Carolina Nov. 20 also remaining on the schedule, the Tigers need two more victories to become bowl eligible.

Game Ball: CB Justin Miller -- The junior became Mr. Everything for the Tigers. In the secondary, he intercepted two passes and was credited with five tackles. He made his first career appearance on offense, getting one carry for 3 yards and completing a pass to QB Charlie Whitehurst for 2. He also returned three punts for 37 yards. He didn't get a chance to return a kickoff, as three N.C. State kicks went deep into the end zone for touchbacks and the other two were returned by teammate Airese Currie.

Keep an Eye On: ROV Jamaal Fudge -- The junior came up with an interception and was credited with seven tackles in the victory over N.C. State. In addition to the interception, which he returned 25 yards, he broke up a pass in the end zone.

Quote to Note: "Defensively right now, we're playing like we did toward the end of last year." -- Coach Tommy Bowden, whose Tigers won their last four games in 2003. They are on a three-game winning streak.

Looking Good: The defense gave up 255 yards through the air to the Wolfpack, but made up for that with five interceptions. It also limited the visitors to 126 yards rushing. The Tigers made a key stand when QB Charlie Whitehurst fumbled the snap at his own 20-yard line on the second play of the game, holding the Wolfpack to a field goal.

Still Needs Work: The Tigers managed only a paltry 82 yards on the ground, averaging only 2.4 yards per rush. TB Reggie Merriweather led with only 49 yards on 14 rushes.

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