Looking Back

Few seasons could be as perplexing as the one Clemson just experienced. <BR>

The Tigers began with high expectations and a Top 20 ranking, tumbled into despair with a four-game losing streak, recovered to win four in a row that included pinning a rare Orange Bowl defeat on Miami, then blew it at the end by brawling with rival South Carolina after winning the game to become bowl eligible.

Unfortunately, Clemson will stay home for the holidays with the 6-5 record (4-4 ACC). Two days after getting the needed victory, school officials announced they would not accept a bowl bid because of the scuffle at the start and brawl near the end of the South Carolina game.

South Carolina, also bowl eligible at 6-5, made the same decision.

Thus, Clemson's run of five consecutive bowl games under coach Tommy Bowden comes to an ignominious end. Bowden had no comment, and players were not immediately available after Monday's announcement. Athletic director Terry Don Phillips recommended the action to school president James Barker, who agreed.

The Tigers likely would have wound up in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, or the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., after winning five of their final six games to become the first ACC team to start 1-4 and rally to become bowl eligible.

Looking back, the season turned when the Tigers started protecting the football. At one point they were last in Division I-A statistics in turnover margin, but they turned that around. Though they ended up minus-8 in turnover margin for the season, they were a plus-4 over the last six games.

Game of the Year: Clemson 24, Miami 17 (OT) -- Though the Tigers went to Miami riding a three-game winning streak and the Hurricanes were coming off their first loss, few gave the Tigers much of a shot in the Orange Bowl. But after falling behind 17-3 in the first half, the Tigers shut out the Hurricanes over the final two periods and the overtime. Reggie Merriweather had 114 yards rushing for the Tigers, who had struggled with their ground game throughout the season.

Player of the Year: LB Leroy Hill -- The senior was the leader in the middle of the defense, leading the Tigers in tackles (105), including 19 for loss (nine sacks).

After one of the most suprising seasons in recent memory last year, Hill backed up his play with a sensational senior campaign.

Play of the Year: DE Charles Bennett interecepted N.C. State QB Jay Davis on fourth and goal to preserve a 26-20 win in the eighth game of the year. "I just wanted to make a play," said Bennett afterwards.

"There have been so many times this year where making a play would have made a difference. On the last play, the coaches had me in the position to make the play. I just took that opportunity and did it."

Rapid Review: Talk about a roller coaster ride. A heartbreaking loss in the closing seconds to Georgia Tech in the second game sent the Tigers to a four-game losing streak. They recovered to get over .500 by winning four in a row, including a victory in the Orange Bowl over Miami, but lost to Duke the next week. The Tigers dominated South Carolina in the season finale to get a sixth victory to become bowl eligible, then were denied a postseason berth as punishment for brawling with the Gamecocks.

Fast Forward: The Tigers will have a solid nucleus returning on both sides of the ball with LT Barry Richardson, QB Charlie Whitehurst, WRs Chansi Stuckey and Curtis Baham, and RB Reggie Merriweather back on offense. CBs Justin Miller (assuming he comes back) and Tye Hill and ROV Jamaal Fudge will anchor the defense.

Temple replaces Utah State among non-conference opponents, Texas A&M returns the favor by completing their end of a home-and-home series, the Tigers also play both Florida State, Boston College, and Miami in conference battles.

Quote to Note: "I know that this decision is not fair to the clear majority of our players or coaches. But given the circumstances, I believe strongly that it is the right decision so that our university, our student-athletes, supporters and all people that love Clemson know without question what our values are." -- Part of the statement from athletics director Terry Don Phillips on the school's decision to pass up a bowl following the incidents in the South Carolina game.

Players to Watch in 2005: CB Justin Miller -- He is a game-breaker on special teams and came up with three interceptions during his junior season. Even though he ended speculation he would enter the NFL draft by announcing after he would return for his senior season, stay tuned to his situation as it could change should be informed that he would be a first round pick.

QB Charlie Whitehurst -- He had a miserable start to his junior season when plagued by 13 interceptions in the first six games, but he recovered and threw only three more picks the rest of the way. A big senior season could make a difference for the Tigers.

Injury Impact: Among major injuries, DE Vontrell Jamison torn an Achilles' tendon against Texas A&M and missed the rest of the season. He will petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. Freshman FS Roy Walker tore his ACL in the summer and missed the season.

CUTigers.com Top Stories