Clemson - N.C. State Game Notes

The Tigers travel to Raleigh Thursday evening to take on N.C. State on ESPN.

Clemson vs. NC State Series Notes
·Clemson and N.C. State will do battle in the 25th annual Textile Bowl when the two teams meet in Raleigh on Thursday. Clemson has a 16-8 advantage in the series since the game took on the Textile Bowl title in 1981, the year Clemson won the National Championship. The Textile Industry has a very important effect on the economy of North Carolina and South Carolina and the two schools competing in Thursday's game.

·Overall, Clemson has a 45-27-1 lead in the series, including an 19-11 record in games played at Clemson. The Tigers are 16-11 against NC State in games played in Death Valley.

· Clemson is 11-11-1 against NC State in neutral site games and 15-15 in games at Raleigh over the years. NC State has an 11-7 lead in games played in Carter-Finley Stadium, including two of the last three games in Raleigh.

·Many of the Textile Bowl contests have been close. Seven of the last eight games have been decided by eight points or less, including last year's 26-20 Clemson victory at Death Valley. The lone meeting that was not close in the last eight years took place in 2002, a 38-6 NC State victory that was also played on a Thursday night and televised by ESPN.

·NC State was Clemson's nemesis team from 1986-88. The Tigers won the ACC Championship each year under Danny Ford, but never beat the Pack in the process, losing all three seasons. It was the only loss for Clemson in the ACC in each of those years.

· Tommy Bowden is 3-3 against NC State since he has been at Clemson. That includes a 1-2 record in Raleigh and a 2-1 ledger at Clemson.

·Over the last eight years the two teams have won in two-game sets. Clemson won in 1996 and 1997. NC State followed with victories in 1998 and 1999, then Clemson won in 2000 and 2001. NC State won in 2002 and 2003. Clemson won in 2004 and hopes the trend continues with a victory on Thursday to make it a fifth consecutive two-game streak.

·Over the last six years, NC State has won the three games in the series played at night and Clemson has won the three games played during the day. Additionally, NC State has won the three games televised by ESPN and Clemson has won the three games televised by other networks (ABC or Jefferson Pilot).

Landmark Games in Clemson vs. NC State Series
·1903--Clemson defeated NC State 24-0 in Columbia, SC in 1903. Clemson Head Coach John Heisman got married to Evelyn Barksdale in Columbia after the game. It is believed to be the only time in Clemson sports history that a coach has won a game and won a lady's hand in matrimony on the same day.

·1948--Bobby Gage ran 90 yards on a punt return for the only score of the game in a 6-0 Tiger victory over the Wolfpack in 1948. It is still the longest punt return in the history of Death Valley.

·1950--Clemson defeated NC State 27-0 in 1950. Wyndie Windham led the Clemson defense and according to legend knocked out three NC State backs on three consecutive plays in the second half.

·1967--Clemson painted its shoes orange for the NC State game in Death Valley and the Tigers upset the 10th ranked Wolfpack 14-6. One of the linebackers on that NC State team was current Pack Head Coach Chuck Amato. Clemson clinched a tie for the ACC championship with the victory. Clemson painted its shoes orange because NC State had featured a defense that had worn White shoes during the season. It was the highest ranked team Clemson defeated in Death Valley in the Frank Howard era.

·1984--Clemson defeated NC State 35-34 in Raleigh in the highest scoring game decided by one point in Clemson history. No points were scored by either team in the fourth quarter.

·1991--Clemson wore purple jerseys for the first time since the 1920s in a 29-19 upset victory over NC State. NC State was undefeated and ranked 10th in the nation entering the game against Ken Hatfield's Tigers. Nelson Welch kicked a record five field goals in leading Clemson to the victory.

*1995--Clemson gave up over 500 yards total offense to the Pack, but still won 43-22. Leomont Evans tied a Clemson single game record with three interceptions.

Recent Clemson vs. NC State Games
1997-- In Raleigh, Matt Padgett, now a Double AA professional baseball player, booted a 20-yard field goal with just 19 seconds left to give Clemson a 19-17 victory. The Tigers drove 78 yards in 14 plays to set up the winning score. Nealon Greene hit 20-32 passes for 250 yards and Tony Horne caught eight passes for 112 to key the Clemson offense.

1998--at Clemson, Torry Holt completed an incredible day with a nine-yard scoring pass from Jamie Barnette with just 37 seconds left. It was his fourth touchdown reception of the day. He had 225 yards receiving in that game and he is the only Clemson opponent to catch four scoring passes in the same game.

1999--NC State, behind then Head Coach Mike O'Cain, defeated Clemson 35-31 in an exciting contest in Raleigh that featured 35 first-quarter points between the two teams combined, most combined points ever in the first period of a Clemson game. Clemson had five possessions in the fourth period with a chance to take the lead, but could not drive for a winning touchdown.

2000--This game was a thriller that came down to the last possession before the Tigers came away with a 34-27 victory. Woody Dantzler completed 18-30 passes for 220 yards and also rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Rod Gardner had 10 catches for 137 yards (most reception yards ever by a Clemson player against NC State), while Travis Zachery added 31-147 and two scores.

2001-- Dantzler gained 517 yards of total offense, an all-time Clemson record. He had a career best 23-27 passes for 333 yards and four scores, and also rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. It was arguably the best individual performance in Clemson history as he accounted for an ACC record six touchdowns. Still, it was a 45-37 outcome, as Phillip Rivers had another outstanding passing game for NC State.

2002--T.A. McClendon had a breakout game with 178 yards rushing to lead NC State to a 38-6 victory in a Thursday night game in Death Valley. Clemson's only touchdown came on a kickoff return by then freshman Justin Miller. It was his first career kickoff return.

2003--Phillip Rivers evened his career record against Clemson at 2-2 with a 213-yard passing performance, leading the Pack to a 17-15 victory in Raleigh in a game shown on ESPN on a Thursday evening. Clemson cut the deficit to 17-15 with five minutes left, but the Tigers could not get close enough for a winning field goal. NC State got the ball back with 3:54 left and ran out the clock.

2004--Clemson won 26-20 when Charles Bennett intercepted a pass at the Clemson goal line on the last play to preserve the victory. It was the seventh time in the last eight meetings that the game was decided by eight points or less.

Last Year vs. NC State
Clemson 26, NC State 20
At Clemson Memorial Stadium
Clemson turned six N.C. State turnovers into 16 points to win the 24th edition of the Textile Bowl 26-20. It was the seventh game in the last eight meetings between the two teams that was decided by eight points or less. After a Tiger turnover in its own territory, the Clemson defense was able to hold N.C. State out of the endzone, and John Deraney kicked a 28-yard field goal for the first points of the day. Whitehurst and the Tiger offense responded by moving the ball 76 yards in nine plays down to the N.C. State three. The drive stalled and Jad Dean connected on a 21-yard field goal to tie the score.

After a Tiger punt, the Wolfpack started a drive at their own 14-yard line. After picking up a first down, quarterback Jay Davis escaped pressure from the Tiger defensive line and tried to get the ball to his running back. However, the pass was intercepted by defensive tackle Eric Coleman and returned 20 yards for a touchdown.

The Wolfpack came storming back, as Davis led his team on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a five-yard pass to Reggie Davis.The Wolfpack took over again with 2:48 to play and moved as close as the Clemson 24-yard line. N.C. State had two touchdowns called back because of illegal procedure penalties, and the drive ended with Justin Miller intercepting Davis in the endzone.

The Tiger defense forced a three-and-out to begin the second half, and after Miller returned a punt 15 yards, Clemson began the drive in Wolfpack territory. After a another third-down conversion, Whitehurst hit Currie for 24 yards and a touchdown.

The Clemson defense again made a stand, as Jamaal Fudge intercepted a Davis pass on the next drive and returned it to the Tiger 42. A personal foul penalty against N.C. State moved the ball into Wolfpack territory, and after moving 13 yards, Dean hit his second field goal of the day. The 47-yarder by Dean gave the Tigers a 10-point lead. Whitehurst led the Tigers on a 12 play, 40-yard drive that again ended with a field goal by Dean. The sophomore's fourth field goal of the day, this time from 42 yards, put Clemson back up by two scores with 8:50 to play.

The Wolfpack again answered a Clemson score with a score of their own. This time it was in the form of a Deraney field goal from 44 yards away. Davis directed the Wolfpack down to the Clemson 11-yard line with under 30 seconds to play. After three incomplete passes, N.C. State faced a fourth down with eight seconds to play. Charles Bennett intercepted Davis at the four-yard line in what was the Wolfpack's sixth turnover of the day. Tramaine Billie, Leroy Hill, and Travis Pugh each had 10 tackles apiece, while Anthony Waters had a team-high three tackles for loss. Hill also had a sack for the fifth-straight game, tying a Tiger record.

Clemson Veterans versus North Carolina State
Gaines Adams (BAN)--Played 32 snaps and had two tackles in 2004 game as a reserve.

Curtis Baham (WR) -- Caught three passes for 27 yards in Raleigh in 2003. Had two receptions for 28 yards in 55 plays as a starter in 2004.

Charles Bennett (DE)--Had game winning interception, the only interception of his 39-game career on the last play of the game at the Clemson four-yard line to preserve a 26-20 victory. Also had a caused fumble in that game.

Tremaine Billie (WHIP) -- Made two tackles in only 11 snaps in 2003. Had season high 10 tackles in 60 plays as a starter in victory at Clemson in 2004.

Cole Chason (P) -- Punted three times for a 36.7-yard average as a freshman in 2003. Had 37.0 average on five punts in 2004 game at Clemson. Duane Coleman (TB) -- Rushed 11 times for 51 yards and caught three passes for 42 yards last year in Raleigh in 2003. Had 10-35 rushing and 1-14 receiving in 2004 game at Clemson.

Jad Dean (PK)--Had a perfect 4-4 day kicking field goals and scored 14 of Clemson's 26 points in Tiger victory at Clemson in 2004.

Dustin Fry (C) - Had a 90 percent film grade in 2003 game at NC State. Had 80 percent grade for 15 plays in 2004 win at Clemson.

Roman Fry (OG)--Made first career start at NC State in 2003.

Jamaal Fudge (ROV) --Recorded seven tackles, including a 25-yard interception return in Clemson's win in 2004. Made 10 tackles and had one pass break up in 2003. Had two tackles in 21 snaps in 2002.

Tye Hill (CB) -- Made three tackles as a starter in Raleigh in 2003. Had season high eight tackles and one pass broken up in Clemson win in 2004.

Reggie Merriweather (RB)--Had 14-49 rushing in 42 snaps as a starter in Clemson win in 2004.

Trey Tate (DT) -- Had a sack in 2003 game that caused a fumble against Phillip Rivers. Had two tackles in 50 plays as a starter in 2004.

Anthony Waters (LB)--Had seven tackles, including three tackles for loss, in 2004 Clemson win in Death Valley.

Nick Watkins (LB)--Had five tackles in 27 plays as a reserve in 2004.

Charlie Whitehurst (QB) -- Has completed 43-87 passes for 443 yards and a touchdown in three games against NC State. Has a 1-1 record as starter against the Wolfpack. Completed 14-33 last year for 183 yards and a touchdown in Clemson's 26-20 victory in 2004.

Bobby Williamson (TE) -- Caught five passes for 32 yards in 2003, most catches in a game by a Clemson tight end since 1975.

Tommy One Game Ahead of Dad
The comparisons between father and son are inevitable. Clemson head Coach Tommy Bowden just coached his 100th game at the Division I level and he has 64 victories in those 100 games at Tulane and Clemson. A look to the record of his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, shows that Tommy has a one-game lead over his father. Over Bobby's first 100 games as a Division I head coach at West Virginia and Florida State, he had a 63-37 record.

Tigers Offense Improved from 2004
Clemson's offense has shown improvement over last season in a number of categories. The Tigers have increased their total offense from 295.6 per game to 354.6, an increase of 20 percent in yards per game. That breaks down to 20 yards per game more on the ground and 38 yards per game improvement in the air.

Clemson is also improved in turnovers and that can lead directly to point prevention. Clemson has just three turnovers in five games, an average of 0.6 per game. The 2004 team had 24 turnovers in 11 games, an average of 2.18 per game. The improvement is also apparent in the play of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who has improved his completion percentage for 50.7 to 66.5, his passing efficiency from 97.3 to 126.5. He has also cut his interceptions drastically. He threw 17 last year and has just three in 166 passes so far in 2005. And two of the three were tipped passes by his receivers.

Bowden, Amato Have Accomplishment in Common
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden and NC State head coach Chuck Amato are two of just four coaches in ACC history to take a league program to a bowl game in each of their first four years. The others are Lou Holtz (NC State 1972-75) and Bobby Ross (Maryland, 1982-86). Bowden actually took Clemson to a bowl game each of his first five years and is the only coach in ACC history to accomplish that feat.

Both Bowden and Amato have direct ties to Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. Of course, Tommy Bowden is Bobby Bowden's son and coached under college football's winningest coach as a graduate assistant in 1978-79 and 1981-82 as a tight ends coach. Amato coached under Bobby Bowden at Florida State from 1982-1999. He served as Bowden's assistant head coach from 1986-99.

Clemson Winless on ESPN Thursday Night Package
This will be Clemson's seventh appearance on ESPN's Thursday Night College Football Package. Clemson is 0-6 in its previous appearances, including a 0-5 under Tommy Bowden. Clemson lost to Georgia Tech in the 1998 season under Tommy West, then lost at Virginia Tech and Michael Vick on a Thursday night in 1999, Tommy Bowden's first year. The Tigers lost a pair of Thursday night games in 2002, at Florida State and at home against NC State. In 2003 Clemson lost at NC State, 17-15, the closest Clemson has come to winning on Thursday night. The Tigers dropped a 30-10 decision to a #12 Virginia team in 2004.

While Clemson has a 0-6 mark on Thursday night, it should be noted that five of the six losses have been to top 25 teams and four of the six have been on the road. Clemson played at home on a Thursday night in the ESPN package against Georgia Tech in 1998 and against NC State in 2002. Georgia Tech entered that 1998 game ranked 22nd in the nation, but finished the season 10-2 and ranked ninth in the nation. The 1999 Virginia Tech team finished 11-1 and ranked second in the country. The 2002 NC State team finished with a school record 11 wins and a top 20 ranking.

This will be Clemson's seventh Thursday night game, its third against NC State.

Playing on Thursday is not new for Clemson historically. Clemson and South Carolina used to play on "Big Thursday" every year between 1909 and 1959. The game was played in Columbia in conjunction with the State Fair. Clemson has not won a game on Thursday since 1963 when Clemson defeated South Carolina on Thanksgiving Day. That game was moved from the previous Saturday due to the death of President John Kennedy. Overall, Clemson has played 122 games on Thursdays in its history and the Tigers are 52-60-10 in those games.

Based on his record, Tommy Bowden is a fan of playing on Saturdays. Bowden is 46-32 in his career. That breaks down to a 44-24 mark on Saturdays, 65 percent winning mark. He is 2-8 in games played on the other six days of the week, a 20 percent winning mark. The two wins on non-Saturday games came in bowl games, including the 2003 win over Tennessee that was played on a Friday.

Bowden is always cordial to the TV commentators covering the game. But the sight of Mike Tirico and Kirk Herbstreit can make him cringe. Bowden is 0-6 in his career when Tirico and Herbstreit broadcast a Clemson game for ESPN, 0-5 in the Thursday night package and the 2002 Tangerine Bowl (55-15) loss to Texas Tech. Clemson hopes a win to break the Thursday night jinx will balance out Clemson's streak of overtime wins heading into this year. Clemson was 5-0 in overtime games entering this year, but that streak was broken when Miami (FL) beat Clemson in triple overtime 36-30 on September 17.

Grant Suffers Knee Injury
Clemson wide receiver Kelvin Grant suffered a torn ACL in practice on Wednesday, October 6 and will be lost for the season. The junior from Camden, SC ranked fifth on the Clemson team in receptions this season with 10 catches and is fourth in reception yards with 84. Grant was injured during a drill in practice on Wednesday while making a cut.

"Kelvin had been doing well, especially the last few weeks," said Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden. "This is a big loss to our offense. He really had doing well on the field and in the classroom."

Grant started five games last year and played in 10 overall when he had 23 receptions for 274 yards. He has 45 career receptions in 26 career games for 437 yards and one touchdown. Grant red-shirted the 2002 season at Clemson, so he has one more year of eligibility.

These Games are Good
Clemson has played five games this season and all five have been decided by a touchdown or less within the last three minutes of the game. Four of the five have come down to the last play, including the last three, two of which have gone to overtime.

It has been thrill-a-minute for Clemson players, coaches and fans, and that has been the opinion of the editors of The internet site devoted exclusively to college football selects its top 10 games of college football each week. In each of the first five weeks, Clemson's game has been ranked among the top seven games in college football that weekend.

In the first week of college football, Clemson's 25-24 victory over Texas A&M ranked as the top game of the week. Jad Dean's field goal with two seconds left was the game winner. Clemson's game with Maryland in week II ranked seventh best, as the Tigers overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and scored the game winner on a 38-yard run by Reggie Merriweather with 2:58 remaining.

Clemson's 36-30 triple overtime loss to Miami (FL) was the second best game of Week III, trailing only Michigan State's overtime victory at Notre Dame. The Clemson vs. Boston College game, another overtime affair that ended in the Eagles victory column by a 16-13 score, ranked seventh.

Then, the Clemson vs. Wake Forest game in Winston-Salem on October 1 ranked as the third best game of the weekend. Wake Forest scored with 33 seconds left to take a 31-27 lead, then Clemson drove to Wake Forest's three-yard line on the last play of the game before Curtis Baham was stopped shy of giving the Tigers a game-winning touchdown.

Clemson was the only team in the country to have played a "Top 10 game" each of the first five weeks of the season according to the site. The streak was stopped the weekend of October 8 when Clemson had an open date. The internet site also ranks the best game each week by conference. Each of the first five weeks Clemson's game was ranked as the best game in the ACC.

Thrilling Games Continue
All five of Clemson's games so far this year have been decided with offensive or defensive plays within the last minute of play. That includes four of the five that have been decided within the last two seconds, four on the last play of the game. Clemson is the only school in the nation to have all five of its games decided by six points or less. The only school that is close is Navy, which has had all four of its games decided by seven points or less so far this season.

As far as Clemson history is concerned, this is the first time since 1906 that Clemson has played five consecutive games in the same season that have been decided by seven points or less. That year Clemson had three scoreless ties (Virginia Tech, NC State and Davidson), had a 6-0 win over Georgia and a 6-4 win over Auburn, to start the season.

The last time Clemson played six consecutive games decided by seven points or less took place over the 1985 and 1986 seasons. Clemson had each of its last four games of 1985 decided by seven points or less, then started the 1986 season with two in a row. That is the longest streak in Clemson history for close games.

Clemson Played Consecutive Overtime Games
Clemson played consecutive overtime games, losses at home to 13th ranked Miami (FL) 36-30 in triple overtime on September 17, and 16-13 in overtime to 25th ranked (USA) Boston College on September 24. It marked first time in ACC history that a league school played consecutive overtime games, but it has happened quite often nationally.

In fact, Clemson and TCU both played consecutive overtime games this year on the same weekends. No team has ever played three overtime games in succession. The overtime rule dates to the 1996 season. TCU won consecutive overtime games, a 23-20 win over Utah on September 15 and a 51-50 win over BYU on September 24. Clemson and TCU were the 17th and 18th occurrences of a team playing back to back overtime games. The first school to do it was Southern Cal in 1996, as the Trojans concluded their season with a loss to Southern Cal and a win over Notre Dame (Lou Holtz's last game as Notre Dame coach).

In 2004 Texas A&M and Northwestern were the only teams to play consecutive overtime games. The last team to lose consecutive overtime games was Temple in 2003. However, the Owls had an open date in between overtime losses to Villanova and Cincinnati. Arizona State lost consecutive games in overtime on consecutive Saturdays in 2000. Both of those games were in double overtime.

Clemson won its first five overtime games between 1997-2004, but the Tigers have now lost two in a row. Entering the 2005 season there were two Division I teams with an all-time record of 5-0 in overtime, Clemson and BYU. Both lost in overtime on the same weekend this year. BYU lost to TCU, 51-50 on September 24.

Clemson and NC State have played the most overtime games among ACC schools so there is another opportunity when the teams meet on Thursday. NC State has played 10 overtime games in its history and Clemson is second with seven. Clemson has been involved in five of the last eight overtime games played involving ACC teams.

Baham tops in ACC in Yards/Reception
If Clemson gave an award at midseason most improved player on offense the winner would probably be Curtis Baham. The senior from New Orleans has had a lot of distractions this fall with the events of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on his family, but it has not effected him on the football field. It has in fact motivated him. So far this year Baham has been Clemson's big play threat with an average of 22.3 yards per reception (14-312) and three touchdowns. He is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with Reggie Merriweather, who has three on the ground.

Baham had an 11-yard average as a sophomore in 2003 when he had 22 catches and an 11.8 average last year when he had 16 catches in 10 games. Baham has had at least one catch in every game and had a career high 87 receiving yards on five receptions in the triple overtime game against Miami (FL). He scored a tying touchdown in the first overtime on a fourth down pass from Charlie Whitehurst to send the game into a second OT. He had a 51-yard touchdown catch at Maryland that swayed the momentum in Clemson's favor in the 28-24 Tiger victory.

Baham leads the ACC in yards per reception with his 22.3 figure, ahead of the 20.4 by Vernon Davis of Maryland, and Baham's 62.4 receiving yards per game ranks fourth best in the conference.

If the season ended today, Baham's 22.3 yard average would be the sixth best average in Clemson history among Tigers who have had at least 10 receptions in a season. The record is 32.1 by Gary Cooper in 1988 when he had 13 receptions for 417 yards. Baham will have a chance for the mark based on a minimum of 20 receptions for a season. That record is 22.6 yards per catch by Glenn Smith in 1950 when he had 22 catches for 498 yards. Only three players in Clemson history have averaged 20 yards per reception and had a minimum of 20 catches in a season. Those are Smith, Craig Brantley (1975) and Terry Smith in 1993.

Whitehurst, Baham Offspring of NFL Players
Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw two touchdown passes to Curtis Baham in Clemson's 28-24 victory over Maryland. It was a passing combination that has strong football genes. Both Whitehurst and Baham are offspring of NFL players.

Baham's father Curtis played for the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. He was a star player at Tulane prior to his year in the NFL. Whitehurst is the son of former Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst. The elder Whitehurst played seven years in the NFL. During that time he played in 54 games, completed 51.4 percent of his passes for 6205 yards and 28 scores. He was the Green Bay starter for most of the 1978 and 1979 seasons when he passed for over 2000 yards each season.

Williamson Had Career High at NC State
Clemson tight end Bobby Williamson has fond memories of playing at NC State. Two years ago, Williamson had a career high five receptions for 32 yards against NC State in Raleigh. That is the most receptions in a game by a Clemson tight end since 1975 when Bennie Cunningham had six for 87 against Wake Forest.

Williamson has had injuries off and on starting with the preseason this year and has just five catches this season for 54 yards. But, Clemson has had the tight end involved this year. Three different tight ends have exactly five catches apiece (Cole Downer and Thomas Hunter the others). The group has 15 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Downer was injured against Miami (FL) and will not play against NC State. Last year, Clemson tight ends had nine catches for 142 yards all season.

Stuckey Attempting to Join Exclusive Club
Clemson Chansi Stuckey is on the verge of joining an exclusive club in Clemson football history. The junior receiver has accounted for a touchdown three different ways in his a career. He threw two touchdown passes as a freshman quarterback at Wake Forest in 2003. He ran for a touchdown as a reserve quarterback at South Carolina in 2003. He scored a touchdown on a punt return against Texas A&M in 2005. Now he just needs to score a touchdown on a reception to become the third player in Clemson history to account for a touchdown by four different means.

Stuckey has 21 receptions to lead the Tigers in that category this year. He ranks in a tie for fourth in the ACC in receptions per game with 4.2. But, he is yet to get that elusive touchdown. He has 48 career receptions to rank second among active Tigers in that category.

The other two Tigers to account for touchdowns four different ways are Bobby Gage and Ray Mathews. Both did it four different ways in the same season. Gage scored on a run, pass, reception and kickoff return in 1947, while Mathews scored on a run, pass, reception and punt return in 1948.

Clemson Offensive Line Young and Balanced
When someone asks Head Coach Tommy Bowden to rate his top offensive linemen he usually has to pause and think about. Over the first five games, five different offensive linemen have had the highest film grade awarded by Assistant Head Coach Brad Scott. Center Dustin Fry led the way against Texas A&M, senior offensive guard Chip Myrick was the leader against Maryland, junior tackle Marion Dukes had the high grade against Miami (FL), guard Brandon Pilgrim was the best against Boston College and junior Roman Fry was the leader against Wake Forest.

Not listed above are Nathan Bennett and Barry Richardson, who might be the most consistent of Bowden's offensive linemen. Bennett actually leads the team in knockdown blocks with 32, followed by Roman Fry with 23. Roman Fry's total included 11.5 against Wake Forest. Duke has 20.5 knockdowns followed by Richardson and Pilgrim with 20 apiece. Dustin Fry is next with 18. Richardson is a first-year sophomore who was named a Freshman All-American last year.

What is encouraging for Bowden is the youth of the offensive line. Chip Myrick is the only senior among the 10 offensive linemen who have played in a game this year, meaning just about everyone will be back for the Tigers up front on offense in 2006.

Matchup of Outstanding Freshmen Running Backs
Thursday's game between Clemson and NC State will feature two of the top first year freshman running backs in the nation. Both were ranked among the top 10 running backs in high school football last year and both are already leading their respective teams in rushing.

Clemson's James Davis of Atlanta, GA has 72 carries for 290 yards and two scores this season. He is the top rusher among freshmen in the ACC so far this season and ranks seventh on the conference rushing charts with 58 yards per game. Davis burst on the scene with 101 yards in 19 carries against Texas A&M in his first career game, the first Clemson freshman running back to gain at least 100 yards in his opening game since Bobby Gage in 1945.

Davis scored his first two career touchdowns at Wake Forest and he also had five receptions in that game, second highest single game reception total in Clemson history for a running back. Davis has 13 catches for 73 yards so far this season and has started four of the five Tiger games. He had 7,339 yards and 80 touchdowns for his high school career.

NC State's Toney Baker has 46 rushes for 216 yards and four touchdowns so far this season to lead the Wolfpack in rushing. He has added eight receptions for 59 yards and scored one touchdown via the air. Baker was the third ranked running back in the nation by last year. He set the North Carolina high school state record for career rushing yards with 10,231, breaking the former mark of T.A. McLendon by over 1000 yards.

Merriweather Needs Two for 1000
Clemson junior running back Reggie Merriweather needs just two yards rushing at NC State to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his career. That is quite an accomplishment for the native of North Augusta, GA considering he had just 16 carries his first year and has started just seven games in his three years.

Merriweather is slated to start at NC State after gaining 92 yards in 17 attempts at Wake Forest. He has averaged at least 5.0 yards per rush in three of the five games so far this year and currently ranks second on the team in rushing yards with 272. He has 272 yards in 54 attempts for a 5.0 average. Merriweather averaged 4.9 per rush as a sophomore and has a 4.8 average for his career (206-998).

Merriweather is currently 10th in the ACC in rushing yards per game with 54.4. He and freshman James Davis are both ranked in the top 10 in the conference. Davis is seventh with a 58.0 average.

Merriweather Sets Clemson Record
Clemson running back Reggie Merriweather scored the game winning touchdown for the Tigers in the 28-24 win at Maryland on September 10. His 38-yard jaunt around right end on a third-and-seven play with 2:58 left marked the second straight year and third time in his career that he had scored a game winning touchdown with three minutes or less left in game. In fact, it was the third time he had done it in a seven-game period.

Merriweather scored from two yards out with 23 seconds left to give Clemson a 10-7 win over Maryland in 2004, then scored from a yard out in overtime against Miami just a couple of weeks later. Clemson kept the Hurricanes out of the endzone and Clemson had the victory.

When Merriweather scored his game winner at Maryland he became the first player in Clemson history to score three fourth-quarter game winning touchdowns in a career. Prior to the Maryland game, Merriweather was joined in the Tiger record books in that category by Fred Cone, Doug Cline, George Usry, Lowndes Shingler and Jerry Butler.

Merriweather is now one game-winning play behind David Treadwell. Treadwell booted a fourth-quarter game winning field goal for Clemson four times in his career, including consecutive years within the last 10 seconds against Georgia (1986-87).

Yards/Play No Indication
One would think that a leading indicator of success in a football game would be yards per play gained. But that has not been the case for Clemson this year. In fact, in each of the first five Clemson games in 2005 the team with the higher yards per play figure has lost the game. That trend continued when Clemson gained 5.7 yards per play compared to 5.4 for Wake Forest on October 1, a 31-27 Demon Deacon victory. The biggest disparity of the year in that area came in the opener when Texas A&M gained an incredible 7.2 yards per play and lost to the Tigers 25-24. Clemson averaged a healthy 5.3 per play that day.

Third Down Conversion Improved vs. Wake Forest
Clemson had its problems on third down in the overtime loss to Boston College as Clemson was 0-11 in that category. It marked the first time on record that Clemson failed to convert a single third-down. But, that improved against Wake Forest as Clemson converted 7-13 opportunities. That was the first time since the 2003 South Carolina game that Clemson had converted on at least 50 percent of its third down opportunities.

Hill Top Draft Choice Candidate According to Kiper
Clemson cornerback Tye Hill is off to a strong start in 2005 and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has taken note. In his latest listing of top senior NFL Draft prospects, Kiper ranks Hill 14th overall, third among defensive backs. Hill has made a seven place jump in Kiper's rankings since the season began. Kiper ranks Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart first in his rankings of draft eligible players, followed by Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. The only defensive backs ranked ahead of Hill are Virginia Tech cornerback Jimmy Williams and Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen.

Hill has 32 tackles to rank fifth on the team, including 25 first hits, which is tied for second on the club. Hill is coming off a career high 11 tackles at Wake Forest, including three tackles for loss. That was a Clemson single game record for tackles for loss by a defensive back. Hill now has two interceptions for 11 yards and three total passes broken up for the season. He also has a fumble recovery for a team best three takeaways, and has a caused fumble to be involved in another turnover. Top Stories