Bowden: Execution is Key Against Deacs

CLEMSON – In the week leading up to the North Carolina game, the theme of the week preached by Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was avoiding the letdown. This week, the point of emphasis is execution.

There are very few in the world who would argue that Wake Forest has better players or more talent than the Tigers, however, for some reason, the Demon Deacons have been a major thorn in the side of Bowden.

Clemson lost its last two games in Winston-Salem and have barely won a couple of times recently in Death Valley.

Bowden said there's one specific reason why – execution.

"We got up there and we don't execute," he said. "Wake Forest pretty much comes out and they play hard and they execute and then they go over and sit on the bench and say Clemson will blow it. And it's worked. It's worked just about every year for him.

"Even the years we beat them, it was (by an inch). They just sit over there and say, ‘Clemson will eventually blow it. Just let them go, they'll blow it. They'll blow a coverage or have a turnover or get a punt blocked. Give them time to screw up.'

"And that's been the case. They show up, play hard and they execute. We don't. Even in the games that haven't been up there have been down to the wire."

But Bowden believes this week of practice will be much like it was during the week Clemson prepared for the Tar Heels.

If the Tigers needed any more motivation, Wake Forest is 5-0 and knocking on the door of the Top 25.

"I would think they would be attentive this week," he said. "I'd be surprised if we don't practice well, but you never know at this age."

Kickoff coverage problems
After having believed the kickoff coverage problem at Boston College had been solved, it reared its ugly head against Louisiana Tech, which averaged 30 yards per return Saturday.

On the season, teams are averaging 24.96 yards per return against Clemson, which ranks 109th in the nation out of 119 Division I teams.

"They're not being coached properly," kickoff coverage coach David Blackwell said. "I take full responsibility and accountability and we'll get it fixed. We had three games where we gave up 13 yards a return and then you have two games where it breaks down. Obviously the personnel is doing good enough in those other games, so it goes back to me. We'll work on it and we'll keep getting better."

Blackwell said the problem Saturday was players leaving their assigned running lanes.

"Honestly, that was probably the biggest thing on the first two returns this past week," he said. "Guys were just out of control a little bit. They got a little pumped up and excited and just totally lost all our lanes."

As a result, Blackwell said there will new personnel on the field this week on kickoffs.

But he also added that some of the blame falls on kicker Jad Dean. Blackwell said some of his kicks were line drives, which makes for an easier return. He also said Dean isn't kicking it deep enough sometimes.

"Jad's got to kick the ball better," Blackwell said. "He's been inconsistent kicking the ball a little bit. It's not all him. It's everybody – myself, the guys on the kicking team and then the kickers."

The Tigers have led the ACC in kickoff coverage two of the last three years and that makes this year's problems an even harder pill to swallow.

"The biggest thing is we've got to be consistent," Blackwell said. "It's not like we're a bad coverage team. We've got to be consistent and right now, we're not. We've either been really, really good or really, really bad. There's been no middle ground. …

"It's something that will cost us in bigger games down the road if we don't get it fixed."

Hamlin update
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said he won't know for a few days whether or not Cat safety Michael Hamlin will be able to play this week, despite having his broken left foot being cleared medically by team doctors.

"(Tuesday) is full pads and we'll see what he can do as far as tackling and bending his knees," Koenning said. "It would really help and allow C.J. (Gaddis) to play a little more corner and give us a more physical corner there. …

"But the last thing we all want to do is put him is a situation where he reinjures it or break it." Top Stories