Post South Carolina Questions Answered

Ever since South Carolina's win Saturday, Clemson fans everywhere want to know what, if anything, is wrong with tailback James Davis and why wasn't running back Reggie Merriweather on the field in the crucial final seconds. Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden was asked repeatedly about those very topics Monday afternoon.

First things first: Is there anything wrong with Davis? It seems pretty obvious that he hasn't been the same running back the last three or four games as he had been all of last year and for the better part of this year.

"He's been banged up some, but I think he was 100 percent this game," Bowden said. "He should have been 100 percent this game. Ya'll can ask him."

Davis finished Saturday with 11 carries for 19 yards.

That brings us to the Merriweather portion of the teleconference.

Bowden was asked why Merriweather wasn't on the field in the final seconds after C.J. Spiller injured his right ankle.

Bowden said there was never any thought to have anybody in there but Davis, despite the fact that Merriweather had provided some much need excitement to the offense at the beginning of that final drive.

He added that he wanted his best player on the field and that tag belongs to Daivs, not Merriweather.

"James, over the course of the year, had probably been our best runner," Bowden said. "C.J. was coming pretty fast. The way this thing has unfolded throughout the course of the season, our best backs have been Davis, Spiller and Merriweather, in that order."

In three carries, Merriweather had runs of 10, 7 and 6 yards, which left the crowd chanting, "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" He had 23 yards on three carries.

"He's kind of like a second-team quarterback, he's a crowd favorite right now," Bowden said of Merriweather. "He's got a great personality. … I try to get the most productive players over the course of the season on the field at one time. James has been the most productive guy the last two years."

Over the last two seasons, Bowden has routinely said that whichever back has the "hottest hand" would get most of the playing time. Bowden was asked if Merriweather had the "hot hand?"

"For those three carries, he did. But James …" Bowden said. At this point he asks sports information director Tim Bourret what rushing totals Davis had, as if looking to say Davis had good numbers too. But when he was informed of the bad totals, he added:

"I just felt like over the course of the year statistically that he was the best guy. The hot hand for the last 12 games had been 28 and 1, not 37."

Another reporter then asked Bowden that if he always wants his best players on the field, then why was Merriweather playing at the start of the last drive, which was the game's most important possession.

"Just to give him some at-bats," he said. "It was a big game, he hadn't been in, he's a senior and the game was on the line. It was just kind of a momentum changer. You saw what happens with the fans when he goes in."

That immediately prompted this question: Did you think about leaving him in after seeing how the fans responded and they were chanting his name?

"Oh, no. No," Bowden said. "I think I heard long ago, coaches who listen to fans usually end up sitting beside them."

The final play
On that final play, which was supposed to be a pass to tight end Thomas Hunter over the middle and near the back of the end zone, Bowden said there was never any thought to running it up the middle to play for the tie and to spot the ball in the middle of the field to make life easier for placekicker Jad Dean.

"Against Maryland, we ran three straight plays and we didn't make an attempt to throw it in the end zone," he said. "So, I said I was going to try and win this game. I didn't want to go into overtime. We had ran the ball down there, so I said let's take two runs and on the third one, I'm going to try and win it instead of kicking a field goal and settling for overtime. I liked the play called."

The problem is that when South Carolina snuck safety Syvelle Newton and a linebacker up to the line, quarterback Will Proctor was supposed to check out of the original play, which called for a fake pump on a screen pass before finding Hunter.

"We had talked about that and to abort the fake," Bowden said. "He was supposed to abort the fake and we had receivers running routes and he was to throw it over their head and not take a sack. We've practiced it for 10 days.

"On my part, I could have seen (Newton) creeping up and I could have called timeout from the sideline. I've got a little more experience than Will does. I probably would have stayed with the call again."

Quick hits
Bowden wouldn't say whether any schools with job openings have contacted him to ask for his recommendation or to see if he was interested in applying. He just said he wants to stay at Clemson.

"Hopefully they'll keep me because I surely want to be here," he said.

Bowden said the big thing that stood out to him after watching the film was how the team "did not tackle real well." … He also said he doesn't care what bowl the team goes to as long as it's against the highest ranked opponent possible. He doesn't want a cupcake. …

Clemson's 8-4 overall finish and 5-3 in the ACC was about right, according to Bowden.

"From an expectation standpoint, (ACC title) is kind of how we started the season," he said. "We ended up where everybody predicted us and where we kind of thought we'd be."

On the injury front, there doesn't seem to be too much damage to Spiller, who is in a walking cast.

"I don't think it's a high-ankle sprain, which is the worst," Bowden said. "I think he's going to be alright for the bowl."

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