Last Trip to Orlando a Fog for Charlie

CLEMSON – Charlie Whitehurst remembers very little the last time he and his Clemson teammates played a bowl game in Orlando against a team from the Big 12. And to be honest, he's actually thankful.

On that day in his freshman year of 2002, Whitehurst and the Tigers were whipped as though they had never been whipped before. Texas Tech physically dismantled Clemson 55-15 in a route that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

"I remember not remembering much of the game," Whitehurst said. "Maybe that was good because it didn't go too well."

This time, the circumstances are eerily similar to those of four years ago. Clemson enters with a 7-4 record, while in 2002, it had a 7-5 mark. Colorado enters the contest coming off a 70-3 waxing by Texas, while the Red Raiders went to Orlando fresh off the heels of a 60-15 whipping from Oklahoma.

But even if there are some similarities, virtually nothing that happens this time will compare to that first trip.

Whitehurst finished the game 20-of-48 passing for 263 yards and four interceptions after being intercepted only twice in 166 attempts going into the game. He did manage to toss one touchdown.

But it's not like Whitehurst was to blame for much of the defeat. The offensive line was practically non-existent. He was sacked four times and hit countless others.

"I got hit once I think in the third quarter on their sideline I thought there was a chance that it might kill me," Whitehurst said seriously while recounting the game. "I couldn't believe that I got up. It took me five seconds to get up. I couldn't believe that I was still conscious."

His receivers let him down, too, dropping at least five passes.

With 2:10 left to play, Whitehurst had finally taken all he could. Following a hard hit from linebacker Geremy Woods, Whitehurst slowly walked off the field.

"I honestly felt sorry for Whitehurst," Texas Tech defensive end Aaron Hunt said following the game. "We hit him shot after shot after shot. Just like any other freshman, when you hit him, he gets rattled and starts running around and doing crazy things."

Upon his return to Clemson following the game, Whitehurst didn't dwell on it. Not that he could do it even if he wanted to after getting his bell rung so many times.

"I think when you get beat that bad, you just try to say it was a fluke and forget about it," he said. "It's the easiest way to forget about it."

In some sort of weird way, the pounding Whitehurst took might have been a good thing in the long run. He never blamed others for the beating or even though he took numerous shots, he never lost his poise. He picked himself up and went back for more.

And because of that, several of his current teammates said that's when Whitehurst became the leader of the team. They all had new and increased respect for him.

"That's something a quarterback has to do," he said. "You're not at a position where you can prove your toughness by hitting people or being aggressive so you kind of take a beating and keep getting up. I guess I proved that."

He's just hoping he doesn't have to prove it again anytime soon.

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