Tigers Play Conservative

CLEMSON – When Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden decided to give up the play calling and let a "mad scientist" install a new offense, there was a belief and hope that the Tigers would light up the scoreboard.

However, through four games, the exact opposite has happened. For most of the season, the face of the Clemson offense has been that of an extremely conservative one in its play calling. And with that philosophy, tight games have been and will continue to be the norm.

On this particular day, the outcome wasn't in the Tigers' favor as Boston College scored a touchdown in overtime to get the 16-13 victory over Clemson at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers have been more conservative than televangelist Pat Robertson.

Just once all game did Clemson attempt to throw the ball more than 15 yards downfield. That was a 37-yard completion to Curtis Baham. Against Maryland, the Tigers attempted two passes downfield, one of which was a 51-yard touchdown to Baham.

Against Texas A&M, only a couple went downfield, and against Miami, the Tigers lived fast and free with a whopping four attempts downfield.

See a pattern?

"I feel terrible that we left the defense out there like we did," Spence said. "Obviously that's not good. … I was comfortable with the way it was called. I'm not comfortable with the results."

The close-to-the-vest play calling was never more evident than on Clemson's final possession of regulation.

The Tigers had the ball at their own 31 with 1:14 left to play in a tied ballgame. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw an incomplete pass on first down, and two running plays followed, causing the home crowd of 79,000 to moan as Clemson was forced to punt and give the Eagles a shot at winning.

"I was coaching and trying to win the game," Spence said of not trying to settle for overtime. "I was just trying to put us into a position to win the game at that point."

However, Bowden had a different assessment of that final possession.

"We discussed that a lot and it was my idea to run on second down because we threw that first-down incomplete and we were on our 30-yard line, so I didn't want to give them good field position with two timeouts and a field goal being able to win it," he said. "I said, let's get this to overtime and maybe we can win it."

That wasn't the only time the crowd showed their displeasure with the play calling. On third possession of the game, the fans booed the play calling as Clemson went three-and-out.

In the first quarter, the Tigers had 10 yards of total offense. They finished with 251, 125 of which came on two drives in the second quarter.

By game's end, eight of Clemson's possessions in regulation were of four plays or less.

"It wasn't really a point of conversation saying let's just keep it close and win it late on defense," Bowden said. "Right now, we're really not a dominant offense or a dominant defense. I think we're going to have to be pretty wide open on both sides of the ball.

"Wide open right now is a run, run, action pass. But I don't want to get too out of kilter with the schedule we've played. … I don't want to sit here and reinvent the wheel. We've played four games and won two and have seven left. I don't know if we need to reinvent the wheel this early."

In other words, get use to more of the same play calling.

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