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Press Conference Audio (36:02)
Who was the "idiot" that actually kicked to Devin Hester last week? (laughing)
Bowden: Did we kick it to him? We knew he was going to get the ball in his hands but we squibbed it. We knew he'd get it at some point in time, but we were going to try and make the blocking schemes more difficult. I think we did that for the most part.
How do you go from last week's enviroment in the Orange Bowl to this week in Durham where the stands will be half empty?
Bowden: I think that's no doubt the key. And I talk about that a lot and a lot of people do. It's nothing to negate the staff, the players, or their intensity. But in a small alumni school, it's a difficult draw. But it is different. You'll come out here (in Clemson) during pre-game warm ups and there are thousands of fans in the stands, there there will be 10,000 the whole game. It's different.
How would you say life has changed for you and the history of Clemson football Saturday night?
Bowden: It's not much that particular game. We've beaten Florida State, Tennessee, and Miami during the last year. It's more than that. It's the WestZone project, which is a major piece of the puzzle. It was a benchmark program (Miami). But I think its more of what's going on in the last year and a half with the commitment of this administration to facilities and hope for the future. I see it more as a piece of the puzzle.
What has this done to you professionally?
Bowden: I don't know if that's ever been done. Beating Miami at home. Beating them at night, beating them during Homecoming. I think it says a lot about where the program is and the possibilities at this school.
Is this four game stretch the same as it was last year at this time?
Bowden: It's very similar. Professionally its a little bit different due to job security. But its the same type of emotions and momentum swings are similar. And then the same opponent is coming up in Duke. It's very similar for the players and the staff, other than the fact job security was an issue.
Do you have any better insight as to how this team has been able to turn things around for the second consecutive year?
Bowden: No, I wish I did. It happened two years ago, not that the season is finished yet, I'm talking about the four game stretch. Nothing has really changed as far as practice schedule. I've had quick starts and slow starts and quick finishes and slow finishes.
What's the difference in this defense the last four games?
Bowden: I wish I knew but I don't. Sometimes it's a confidence. Sometimes you match up better. I don't have an answer, but I know that the results are different, and I'm glad that they are.
You seem to be getting a better pass rush though, perhaps that's it?
Bowden: That's happened, but it's the same four guys. The scheme is the same. We are getting more pressure than before. I think our seniors for the first time, before the Utah State game, had a players only meeting. It started at that meeting. Maybe that had something to do with it.
Did it help you early on in the season to have close games against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, etc to beat Miami?
Bowden: I think Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Maryland those are games that have literally came down to the last second in the game. Like I said before, had we not turned the ball over against Texas A&M and Florida State, it could have been that way. It helps, the fact that they've been there several times. Until you get in that situation and win, it's in the back of your mind. That's something that I think is a factor when you are in that position again.
What do you think was holding Reggie Merriweather back?
Bowden: I think it's consistency as far as assignments, alignments. To be honest with you, he's a redshirt sophomore and that's about the learning curve. I think he's pretty much on track with a lot of other great backs. HE's not great yet, but he's doing pretty good. He's a lot more mature, a lot more serious. He's got a great personality. I think he used to have a hard time separating business against pleasure. He doesn't seem to have that problem now.
Merriweather wasn't that heavily recruited as some other backs because of his height right?
Bowden: I would say that would be accurate. He led the state in rushing though. He'll tell you he's 5-8, he's only 5-7. You could probably eat pancakes off his head. He's got good speed. He doesn't have much body space to hit. Once he has experienced success, his confidence is going to grow and his hunger is going to grow.
Do you have the two best cornerbacks in the country?
Bowden: I don't know that. They are very talented and have had a good year. I don't know if they'd be the best you know. I'm glad I've got them and I wouldn't trade them.
In the big picture, in terms of recruiting, how important is it to finish the season beating quality teams like Miami and getting to a bowl game?
Bowden: I think from a recruiting standpoint, it can't do anything but benefit you. Then also, we've come down to the wire on some to prospect, and we get them to last 24, 48 hours and we lose them at the last minute. Whether it's facilities or something else. We are starting to beat some impressive programs and that's starting to help in recruiting, as well as the facilities we are going to have.
What are some of the tendancies of the Duke defense?
Bowden: They blitz a good bit and they do what you call "zone blitz." They are not as much as a two deep team as some of the teams we've played in the past. Offensively, they are multiple and will try to present some problems against us with that.
Would you say that there is parity in the ACC this year? And is that good for the conference in general?
Bowden: I think it's good for the conference, bad for coaching. People are familiar with FSU, Miami, and even Virginia Tech and what they've accomplished. When a team like Virginia Tech goes into Wake Forest and only wins 17-10, it shows what the rest of the conference can do. And in this conference with what so many programs have done with facilities, I think it says a lot about where the conference is going.
Kelvin Grant had a couple of critical drops against Miami, how do you keep his confidence level up?
Bowden: Well, he had two critical catches, you try to talk about those, but again, he understands, to go to the next level as a top notch wide out, he's got to make catches. To get the next level, he's going to have to be more consistent.
Duke played Wake Forest within two points, they also played Florida State tough last weekend. Does that help your team keep its focus this week?
Bowden: The game, if you really watch it, was the Maryland game. I think the middle of the third quarter it was 24-21. You add Wake Forest and Florida State in there too, that really helps bring the game in perspective for the players. We know how tough Maryland was for us. We only got 10 points verus Maryland, so that brings things into perspective of how tough this game can be.
Did Charlie play his best game of the season Saturday night?
Bowden: He probably played the best since the first half against Florida State.
Is Charlie starting to get his confidence back now?
Bowden: Yes, the protection in the pocket was good, which helped. He didn't have somebody in his face the whole game.
Is this a good opportunity for Charlie to go back to a place where he really started it all two years ago?
Bowden: You'd have to ask him, but I think he's more concerned with what's going on this year. That being his first chart and throwing for 420 yards, I still think he would be more focused the game.
Are you a top 25 team?
Bowden: Not right now no. I haven't thought about that, I might comment after the season.
Lou Holtz has made public comments lately indicating that this may be his last year. Do you use that against South Carolina in recruiting?
Bowden: No, not really. When Tommy West came in here and when I came here, people knew the school Clemson, not Tommy Bowden or Tommy West. It's more about the school where you are at.
Do you think he'll be back?
Bowden: I don't know. I'll probably be a lot more familiar with what's going on down there next week before we play.