Defense Does It Again

MIAMI – Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden and defensive coordinator John Lovett must be asking themselves: "Where was this the first half of the season?" <BR><BR>

After being basically embarrassed in each of the first five games of the season, the Tigers appear to have turned the season around and everyone can look to and thank the defense for the four-game winning streak.

Against Miami Saturday night in the Orange Bowl, the Clemson defense shut out the Hurricanes in the second half, while allowing just 105 yards of total offense in the final two quarters, which allowed the Tigers to get the 24-17 overtime victory, even though the offense continued to misfire.

"We went in at halftime and talked about just one thing: Just tackle," Lovett said. "We came out in the second half and just stayed with it. We adjusted a couple of things in the second half, but nothing major. Let's just go play our game, let's tackle and we'll stay in the ball game."

Even though Miami offense hurt itself with some dropped or bad passes, quarterback Brock Berlin had little time to breathe in the second half, let alone throw the football.

He was sacked only two times, but he was swarmed by the defensive line on nearly every attempt.

Clemson's defense was so strong in the second half that it forced the Hurricanes into five three-and-outs, four of which came in succession.

"That's a tribute to the kids," Lovett said. "They just fed into what we've told them and they just took it to another notch and played."

In Clemson's last four wins, the defense has been special.

Against Utah State, the Tigers set a school record for sacks (11) and allowed rushing yards (-20) against a Division I-A opponent.

The following week, Clemson held Maryland to 194 yards of total offense. Then against N.C. State last week, the Tigers forced the Wolfpack into committing six turnovers.

"Those kids just never quit and never give up," Bowden said. "Our pursuit must be good because we're getting a lot of hats on the ball."

Two weeks ago following the win against Maryland, Bowden said he would like to win because of his defense and not have to rely on his offense to score tons of points. He finished by saying if he had used that attitude his entire career at Clemson that he likely have a lot more wins.

This, if the Tigers are going to be successful, Bowden has no choice but to win that way. With the offense struggling the entire season, Clemson has still been able to win games by the skin of its teeth.

But that fact that the Tigers were able to win at all is a testament to the defense and special teams. Period.

"To beat ‘The U,' as they call it, is amazing," said defensive tackle Eric Coleman. "Not too many teams do that. And for us to come down here in our first time and do it, it's amazing."

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