A 46-yard field goal attempt by Aaron Hunt with just 1:43 left in the game was dead-on line, but one yard short, and Georgia went on to defeat Clemson 31-28 in Athens, GA on August 31. It was the season opener for both teams, the first meeting between the ACC and SEC rivals since 1995.
The contest reminded many of the classic confrontations that were combated between the two schools in the 1970s and 1980s. At one juncture between 1977-87 nine of the 11 games were decided by a touchdown or less. As it is, each of the last two meetings have now been two points and three points, respectively. This game ended in the same score as Clemson's 1986 victory in Athens that was claimed on a David Treadwell 46-yard field goal at the horn.
Georgia jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half and was on the verge of putting the game out of reach. Georgia's first score came on an 80-yard drive that included two sportsmanlike conduct penalities against Clemson after the Tigers had held Georgia on third down. Damien Gary scored from four yards out to complete the 80-yard drive. Clemson tied the game on a Bernard Rambert one-yard run that was set up by a Kelvin Morris interception. The Bulldogs Fred Gibson ran back the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a score in the second period to give the home team a 14-7 lead, the first kick return for a touchdown against Tommy Bowden as Clemson head coach. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against any Clemson team since 1990.
D.J. Shockley scored at the 8:10 mark of the second period to make it a two-touchdown game. But, Clemson scored just eight seconds before halftime on touchdown pass from Willie Simmons to Kevin Youngblood, who was making his first appearance in a Clemson uniform since 2000. Clemson had the momentum at halftime and it continued in the second half when Bryant McNeal returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at the 9:54 mark of the third period. It was the first defensive touchdown of McNeal's career at any level and first touchdown by a Clemson front four lineman since 1999.
Clemson took the lead for the only time in the game at the 2:25 mark when Yusef Kelly scored on a two yard run to culminate a 10-play 76-yard drive. Clemson then held Georgia and got the ball back on the Clemson 44 with a chance to take a commanding lead. But, the Bulldog defense rose to the occasion and sacked Willie Simmons for a 15-yard loss on third down.
D.J. Shockley then led Georgia to the tying score. He connected with senior Terrence Edwards on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 12:35 to go. The play had been set up by a 40-yard punt return to the Clemson 31 by Damian Gary. Clemson stalled on its next possession and Georgia took the lead back on a Billy Bennett field goal from 43 yards out with 5:19 to play. Simmons then drove the Tigers from the Tiger 38 to the Georgia 30, but could get no closer, setting up Hunt's 46-yard attempt.
Bernard Rambert was Clemson's top rusher with 35 yards on 10 attempts, while Chad Jasmin added 5-30. Clemson running backs had 23-100 rushing in the game, but the Georgia defense sacked Simmons for -29 yards rushing. Youngblood led Clemson's receivers with 6-66 and a touchdown. Simmons was 17-37 for 165 yards and a score in his first college start. The Clemson defense was led by Eric Sampson in terms of tackles with nine, including a sack. John Leake added eight tackles and two tackles for loss, while Rodney Thomas and Eric Meekins both had eight stops. Khaleed Vaughn led the defensive line with seven tackles, including a 13-yard sack and a pass deflection. McNeal had four tackles to go with his fumble return for a score. Kelvin Morris (interception) and Leroy Hill (fumble recover off a kickoff return) had the other takeaways for the Clemson defense.
Who Played at Georgia
Clemson played 60 different players at Georgia. Only three first-year players appeared in the game, including just one first-year freshman. Justin Miller, a cornerback, was the only first-year freshman to appear and he played just two snaps. He did make a tackle. Miller will get more time as the season progresses as starting cornerback Toure Francis suffered a knee injury and could be lost for the season.
Kelvin Morris, a junior college transfer roverback, and Brandon Jamison, a junior college linebacker, were two other defensive first-year players who saw action in the game. Morris made the most of his 16 snaps with three tackles, including a tackle for loss, and an interception, which came on his third play as a Clemson player.
Clemson played 24 different players on defense, 19 different players on offense and 17 Tigers played on special teams only. Sixteen of the players who participated were seniors, 19 were juniors, 19 were sophomores and six were freshmen. Among the starters, 10 were seniors, seven were juniors and five were sophomores (classes by athletic eligibility).
Louisiana Tech Makes First Trip to Clemson
This will be the first trip for Louisiana Tech to Death Valley. The Bulldogs will be the 43rd different team to come to the facility. The Tigers are 29-12-1 against teams making their debuts at Clemson. The last team to win its first game at Clemson was Marshall, who defeated the Tigers 13-10 in Tommy Bowden's first game as head coach in 1999. Notre Dame (1977) is the only other school to win its debut game at Clemson since 1977.
Overall, this will be the 303rd game played in Death Valley, which opened in 1942. Clemson has a record of 211-84-7 at Clemson Memorial Stadium over the years a .710 winning percentage. Given a minimum of three games played, the only schools with a winning record against Clemson in Death Valley are Georgia (6-7-2), Auburn (2-4), and Florida State (0-7). Clemson will have a chance to take Georgia off that list next year when the Bulldogs come to Clemson to open the 2003 season on August 30th.
Clemson Defense Shows Promise
While Clemson did not gain victory at Georgia in the season opener last week, there were many bright spots, especially on defense. Clemson held the Bulldogs to 203 yards of total offense, the fewest yards gained by the Bulldogs in a game since September of 2000, a stretch that covers over 20 games. It was also the fourth best total defense figure by the Tigers under Tommy Bowden, a 37-game span.
Georgia entered the season ranked among the top offenses in the nation according to many of the national media members, as Mark Richt's team returns eight starters from last year's team that averaged 432 yards per game of total offense, including 270 yards a game through the air. Georgia averaged just 3.2 yards per play on Saturday night, almost half of what they averaged for the 2001 season (6.1) on a per game basis.
The Bulldogs averaged 22.3 first downs per game last year and had only 14 against the Tigers. Clemson gave up just one play over 10 yards the entire night and that was a 24-yard pass play. Clemson held highly regarded quarterback David Greene and his corps of receivers to just 117 yards through the air.
A comparison between Clemson's defense of 2001 and the performance at Georgia also documents the improvement of the defense under first-year coordinator John Lovett. Clemson allowed 394.9 yards per game last year, but gave up just 203 last weekend. Clemson allowed an average of 11 first downs per game last year through the air, but Georgia had just four passing first downs against Clemson last week.
Clemson Defense Comparison
Category 2001 Average vs. Georgia First Downs/Game Allowed 21.9 14 Passing First Downs/Game 10.8 4 Rushing First Downs/Game 8.8 8 Total Yards/Game Allowed 394.9 203 Rushing Yards/Game Allowed 154.3 86 Passing Yards/Game Allowed 240.6 117 Yards/Play Allowed 5.3 3.2 Yards/Reception Allowed 13.4 7.8 Yards/rush Allowed 3.8 2.2 Turnovers Forced 1.58 3.0McNeal Goes the Distance
Clemson senior defensive end Bryant McNeal realized the dream of all linemen when he ran 55 yards for a touchdown with a fumble at Georgia on August 31. That was the first time a Clemson front four lineman had scored a touchdown since 1999 when Terry Jolly ran 20 yards for a score with an interception of a Bobby Campbell (Duke) pass.
For McNeal, it was his first touchdown as a defensive player in high school or college and his first touchdown of any kind since he had a score as a tight end his senior year in high school. He almost scored on defense in his final game of high school, but was hauled down from behind at the seven-yard-line on an interception return.
McNeal has been a big play performer for the Tigers throughout his career. The red-shirt senior from Swansea, SC was third in the ACC in sacks in 2001 with eight. He had four caused fumbles in 2001 to tie a Clemson single season record, and he also had a fumble recovery. He was credited with four tackles at Georgia and now needs just four against Louisiana Tech to reach an even 100 for his career. He has 13 career sacks and 21 career tackles for loss in his 37 career games at Clemson.
Youngblood posts career High
While he was disappointed in Clemson's loss at Georgia, junior wide receiver Kevin Youngblood had to feel good last Saturday night at Athens, GA. For the first time since January 1, 2001, he was on the field playing for the Tigers. Youngblood missed the entire 2001 season after suffering a broken leg in an August practice.
Not only did Youngblood play and start against Georgia, he was Clemson's leading receiver with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The score was a 21-yard reception from quarterback Willie Simmons. It marked the third time in his career that he had caught a touchdown pass and all three have come from Simmons.
Youngblood had a promising freshman year (2000) as an understudy to first-round draft choice and former high school teammate Rod Gardner. Youngblood was to replace Gardner's big plays last year until he suffered the injury.
Gardner was in attendance on the Clemson sideline in Athens as he took a day off as he prepares for his second year with the Washington Redskins. Perhaps his presence brought out the best in Youngblood, whose previous career high was just two catches in a game four times in 2000. Youngblood had 13 catches for 225 yards as a freshman, a 17.3 average.
Two Tiger RBs had Career Highs vs. Louisiana Tech
Two Clemson upperclassman running backs have their career highs in terms of rushing yardage against Louisiana Tech, Clemson's opponent on Saturday at Death Valley. Bernard Rambert had 16-101 on the ground in the Humanitarian Bowl against the Bulldogs last year, for his only career 100-yard game, while Chad Jasmin had 16-83 in a reserve role in the same game. Rambert also had 3-77 receiving and a touchdown in that game, the most receiving yards ever for a Clemson player who had a 100-yard rushing performance in the same game.
Both figure to play prominent roles for the Tigers on Saturday. Rambert began the season with 35 yards on 10 carries against Georgia, while Jasmin had 5-30 for a strong six-yard average. Jasmin, an inside runner, has a 5.1 career average in three years for the Tigers.
Walk-ons Make Contribution
Clemson received a contribution from three walk-ons in the Georgia game on August 31. Center Tommy Sharpe played 22 snaps at center. It was the first career action for Sharpe, who was on the roster as a snapper last year, but never appeared in a game. Sharpe was on the field for two Clemson scoring drives.
Wide receiver Tony Elliott had the second catch of his Clemson career, a 20-yard reception at an important juncture of the second half. Elliott began his college career at the prep school for the Air Force Academy, but decided to transfer to Clemson after one year. The first place he visited when he came to the Clemson campus was Death Valley, where he had always dreamed of playing.
A third walk-on started the game, Toure Francis. Francis was a starting cornerback in the game, but suffered a knee injury just 12 plays into the contest. He could be out for the season. He was trying to be the first Clemson walk-on since 1991 (Rob Bodine, MG) to start for the course of the season. Francis is not exactly coming out of nowhere. He started three games and played in all 12 last year at cornerback. He had 37 tackles and two interceptions, plus three pass deflections. For his career he has played in 24 games and has 47 tackles.
An Unusual Night in Sanford Stadium
There were many unusual occurrences from a statistical standpoint during Clemson's 31-28 loss at Georgia on August 31.
* Clemson won the turnover margin and the total offense war, yet lost the game. It was only the fourth game since 1980 that Clemson had the upper hand in those important categories, yet lost the game.
* Clemson held Georgia to 203 yards of total offense. Clemson had won 15 straight games when holding the opposition to 210 yards or less and had not lost when allowing the opposition less than 210 yards since 1988 (N.C. State). Clemson had been 38-3 since 1978 when holding the opposition under 210 yards of total offense.
* Clemson had been 20-3 under Tommy Bowden when it had the upper hand in terms of total offense and had been 13-5 when it had won the turnover margin battle.
*Clemson and Georgia combined to score 59 points, yet the teams each failed to reach 250 yards. Clemson had 233 yards of total offense and Georgia had just 203 for a total of just 436 between them. The two teams averaged over 850 yards per game combined last year.
*Clemson had won 13 of 17 games under Tommy Bowden when holding the ball for more than 30 minutes. Clemson had the ball for over 30 minutes at Georgia, yet lost the game.
*Clemson had a 22-2 record when leading heading into the fourth period under Tommy Bowden.
*A key score for Georgia was a kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore Fred Gibson. No team coached by Tommy Bowden had ever allowed a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown, a streak of 59 games.
Louisiana Tech Wins Opener
Virtually at the same hour Clemson was facing Georgia in Athens, Louisiana Tech was opening its season with a come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma State in a game played at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA.
Luke McCown led Louisiana Tech on a 21-0 run to close the game and lead the Bulldogs to a 39-36 victory. McCown, a junior who threw for 3665 yards a year ago, got his junior year off to quite a start by completing 38-66 passes for 448 yards and three scores. He lost 14 yards rushing, but was sacked just twice in 66 pass attempts. McCown accounted for all three touchdowns in the comeback that took place over the last 15:22 of the game, as he rushed for one and threw for two scores during that time.
McCown completed passes to nine different receivers, including 11 completed passes to running back Joe Smith and 6-103 to receiver Erick Franklin. Smith was also the top rusher in the game with 17-53 and one score.
Just as Clemson had an unusual game in many respects at Georgia, the same goes for the Louisiana Tech vs. Oklahoma State game. When was the last time you saw a game where the two teams combined for 75 points, but there were 21 punts between the two teams? With the fast paced offense employed by both teams, and 107 combined pass attempts vs. just 53 rushing plays, there were a lot of possessions. The two teams combined for just one turnover and each club scored five touchdowns.
Michael Johnson, led the Tech defense with nine tackles, but Curtis Randall had a pair of tackles for loss and a sack for nine yards. Carlin Thomas also contributed five tackles and two tackles for loss to lead the defense. The two teams combined for just 23 points in the first half, then Oklahoma State won the third period 22-16. Louisiana Tech won the fourth period, 14-0. State had a 36-18 lead with 2:18 left in the third period before Louisiana Tech, and McCown got in high gear. The winning score came on a 23-yard pass from McCown to Franklin of 23 yards with exactly one minute left. The play culminated an eight-play, 73-yard drive.
Ball Could be In the Air Often on Saturday
Although this Saturday's game is a 1:00 PM kickoff with no live TV (no TV timeouts), you might not want to make plans for dinner. That was the case for both teams last weekend, as the Clemson vs. Georgia game lasted 3:27 and the Oklahoma State vs. Louisiana Tech game lasted 3:45.
Clemson threw 37 passes at Georgia, while Louisiana Tech threw 66 passes in its victory over Oklahoma State. Louisiana Tech threw it 59 times against Clemson last year in the Humanitarian Bowl, the most passes ever attempted against Clemson.
In the first meeting between the two teams last December the two teams combined for 998 yards of total offense. That is the seventh highest total offense game for both teams combined in Clemson history. The two teams combined for 675 yards passing in that game, the fourth highest total for both teams combined in Clemson history.
Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks so you can see why both head coaches might put the ball in the air. Luke McCown is an All-America candidate for Louisiana Tech. A candidate to be the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, McCown has already thrown for 6657 yards and 53 touchdowns in his 21-game career. Let's put that in perspective. Woodrow Dantzler is Clemson's career leader in passing yards (6037) and touchdown passes (41), figures he achieved in four years. McCown basically still has two years to play and he already has numbers ahead of what Dantzler did at Clemson.
Dantzler's replacement, Willie Simmons, has not had nearly the playing time at Clemson that McCown has had at Louisiana Tech, but, he is gaining in experience and threw his 11th career touchdown pass last Saturday in Athens. He has 11 career touchdown passes on 184 attempts, a touchdown every 16.7 attempts. McCown averages a touchdown pass every 18.0 attempts, as he has 53 touchdown passes on 956 career attempts.
Simmons made his first career start at Georgia last weekend, and had a solid game in a hostile environment, completing 17 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown to Kevin Youngblood, who had a career high six receptions. This will be Simmons's first career start in Death Valley. He has had some memorable moments as a reserve, however. He threw for four touchdown passes at North Carolina in 2000, as he led Clemson from a 17-point deficit to a 38-24 victory. He also threw a clutch touchdown pass to Rod Gardner in 2000 against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets came back to win in the final seconds, but it was still a positive experience for Simmons, who was a freshman at the time. Last year, Simmons threw a touchdown pass of 57 yards to Derrick Hamilton against Louisiana Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Clemson vs. The WAC
This will be Clemson's 10th game against teams currently in the Western Athletic Conference. Louisiana Tech is the defending WAC Champion. Clemson is 6-3 against WAC teams in the previous nine contests. All three losses have come to Rice, as the Tigers are 4-3 lifetime against the Owls. All of those games took place when Rice was in the Southwest Conference.
Clemson is 1-0 lifetime against Louisiana Tech and UTEP. Clemson is 3-0 against WAC teams in games played in Death Valley.
Bussey Common Denominator in Both Schools
Charley Bussey, Clemson's first academic All-American in any sport, served as Louisiana Tech's Athletic Director from December of 1980 until the June of 1983.Bussey was the starting quarterback on Clemson's 1956 team that won the ACC championship and played Colorado in the 1957 Orange Bowl. He was a two-time Academic All-ACC selection and was voted a third-team Academic All-American for the 1956 season. An all-purpose player, he led Clemson in interceptions in 1955, and in passing and punting in 1956.
In 1967, he was working for the Laurens Glass company and was sent to Ruston, LA to serve as plant manager, a position he held until 1970. During that time, he watched a lot of college football games at the nearby school, Louisiana Tech, which was gaining national acclaim at the time behind a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw. In 1980, he returned to Louisiana Tech to serve as athletic director. During his tenure with the Bulldog program, the team posted a 10-3 season in 1982, including the championship of the Southland Conference and a victory in the I-AA playoffs over South Carolina State. Louisiana Tech also won two national championships in women's basketball and was runnerup in his third year as the athletic director. Today, Bussey is back at Clemson where he serves as director of the Clemson Lettermen's Association.
Coaching Sons Do Battle in Death Valley
Louisiana Tech Head Coach Jack Bicknell is the second member of his family to coach against the Tigers in Death Valley. Bicknell is the son of Jack Bicknell, who coached at Boston College against Clemson in 1982 and 1983. Most recently, the older Bicknell has been coaching NFL Europe with the Barcelona Dragons. Of course, Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden is the son of Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden.
The older Bicknell was 1-0-1 against Clemson during the 1982-83 seasons. That is saying something, considering Clemson was 18-2-2 combined in those two years. Bicknell's Boston College Eagles tied the Tigers 17-17 during the 1982 season at Clemson in a game that was televised nationally by CBS. The next year, at Boston, Clemson took a 16-3 lead. But, Boston College went on a 28-0 run behind quarterback Doug Flutie to come away with a 31-16 victory. That was Clemson's only loss in the 1983 season.
The starting center for Boston College in the 1983 contest was Jack Bicknell, the current head coach of Louisiana Tech. He was the starting center for Boston College in 1983 and 1984 and was a member of the 1982 team that played in Death Valley.
Bicknell became the head coach at Louisiana Tech in 1999, the same year Bowden became the head coach at Clemson. Bicknell was the offensive line coach at Louisiana Tech in 1997-98 prior to become head coach.
Clemson Downs Tech in 2001 Humanitarian Bowl
Clemson finished its 2001 season on a high note, defeating Louisiana Tech, 49-24 in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, ID on New Year's Eve. It was the most points Clemson has ever scored in a bowl game and it ended a five-game bowl losing streak for the Tigers.
Clemson was outstanding on offense and defense in the game that was played in snow and 32 degree temperatures. It was the first time Clemson had played in the snow since 1936 and the game time temperature was the coldest in Clemson history.
The elements did not stop quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, who concluded his career with a game MVP performance. The graduate student completed 15 of 23 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. The touchdown pass total tied his own Clemson record. He also added 15 rushes for 57 yards in leading Clemson to an almost perfectly balanced 273 yards rushing and 275 yards passing. The Tigers averaged 6.5 yards per play and totaled 548 yards of total offense.
Bernard Rambert led the running backs with 16 carries for 101 yards and a score. He also had 3-77 receiving and a touchdown, giving him a career high 178 all-purpose running yards. That was also a record for any Clemson player in a bowl game.
The touchdown reception was a 62-yard catch that gave the Tigers a 28-10 lead in the third period. It was one of four touchdowns for Clemson in the 28-point third period, the highest scoring quarter in Clemson bowl history. Derrick Hamilton had four receptions for 94 yards, including a 57-yard scoring pass from Willie Simmons, while freshman Roscoe Crosby had 4-69 and a score.
Clemson scored seven touchdowns in the game, including a record five touchdowns through the air. Four different Clemson freshmen scored touchdowns, a first in school history. In addition to the scores by Hamilton and Crosby, Airese Currie scored on a 19-yard run on a "Panther Play", and tight end Ben Hall scored on a five-yard touchdown reception.
The defense was not far behind. Clemson's defense held Louisiana Tech to just 10 points over the first 53 minutes of the game. John Leake led the tacklers with 13, while Braxton K.Williams concluded his career in grand style with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass deflection and a sack. Eric Meekins, Charles Hafley and Brian Mance all had interceptions of Louisiana Tech quarterback Luke McCown, who completed 25 of 52 passes. Clemson had six sacks on defense, one by six different players. Clemson held Louisiana Tech to just 49 yards rushing.
Bowden Has Faced Louisiana Tech Twice
This will not be the first time Jack Bicknell and Tommy Bowden have been across the field from one another. In fact it will be the third time it has happened. The most recent contest took place last year in the Humanitarian Bowl, a 49-24 Clemson win.
In 1998, when Bowden was head coach at Tulane and Bicknell was offensive line coach at Louisiana Tech, Tulane defeated Louisiana Tech, 63-30. That was Bowden's last game prior to coming to Clemson.
Tulane used a balanced attack to gain the victory. Tulane had 303 yards rushing and 330 passing in what was Tommy Bowden's final game as Tulane Head Coach. The Greene Wave scored nine touchdowns on its first 10 possessions behind quarterback Shaun King. King completed 19-26 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns on the night. He also rushed for 92 yards. Tulane scored 21 points in the second quarter and the third period to put the game out of reach and clinch and undefeated regular season.
Louisiana Tech, with Bicknell serving as offensive line coach, was productive offensively also, gaining 525 yards of total offense, including 471 passing. Tech threw 57 passes in the contest.
Tigers from Louisiana
Clemson has just two players on its roster from Louisiana, fullback Chad Jasmin and defensive back Curtis Baham. Jasmin is the team's top fullback, while Baham is a red-shirt freshman receiver.
Jasmin had an outstanding performance against Louisiana Tech last year in the Humanitarian Bowl, rushing for a career high 83 yards on 16 carries in 30 plays of action. Jasmin got his junior season off on the right foot at Georgia with 30 yards in just five carries. For his career, Jasmin now has 294 yards on just 58 attempts, a 5.1 average.
Jasmin came to Clemson from St. James High School in Vacherie, LA. He rushed for 2018 yards in 210 attempts his senior year, a 9.6 average, and scored 33 touchdowns. He was an all-state performer in high school.
Baham red-shirted last year and obviously did not play against Louisiana Tech last year. He did not make the travel squad for the Georgia game. A defensive back from Christian High School in New Orleans, Baham was a 4A All-State player as a junior and senior. He is the son of Curtis Baham, who played collegiately at Tulane and with Seattle in the NFL.
Clemson Faces Tough Schedule in 2002
In many ways this will be Clemson's most difficult schedule. The 2002 Tigers have nine games against teams who had winning records last year and eight of the 2002 opponents played in bowl games last year.
Nationally, Clemson is tied for third in number of games against teams who had winning records in 2001 and tied for fourth in number of 2001 bowl opponents on the 2002 schedule.
Clemson has had some difficult schedules under Tommy Bowden. The 1999 schedule is listed as the 10th toughest in the nation according to the 2002 NCAA Record Book. In 2001, Clemson had five wins over teams with winning records, one off the Clemson single season record.
Clemson has Eight Graduates on Roster
The 2002 Clemson team has already broken a school record and the kickoff of the season opener has not even taken place. This year's team has eight graduates on its roster, a record for a Clemson team. The list includes three players who will travel to roster with two full seasons yet to play.
Clemson starting quarterback Willie Simmons, starting defensive end Khaleed Vaughn and reserve tackle William Henry are listed as graduates on the roster, but still have this year and 2003 in terms of eligibility. Simmons received his degree last May, accomplishing his course requirements in just three years and three summer schools. That is the earliest a Clemson scholarship football player has ever graduated. Vaughn and Henry both graduated this past August 10th and still have two years to play.
The list of graduates on the 2002 Clemson team includes starting wide receiver Jackie Robinson, starting roverback Altroy Bodrick, starting defensive tackle Nick Eason and starting offensive tackle Gary Byrd. Nathan Gillespie is a reserve offensive lineman who also has his Clemson diploma. Eason graduated in August of 2001, so he also had his degree with two years to play.
The previous high for graduates on a Clemson football team was seven set just last year. By the end of the 2002 academic year 18 of the 22 seniors on the 2001 football team already had their degree. Two of those players are in school this year and plan to graduate by May of 2003.
Clemson in Home Openers
Even though this is the 107th season of Clemson football, Clemson has had just 101 home openers in its history because five seasons Clemson did not play a game at home. In the 101 previous home openers, Clemson has a 77-16-8 record against 28 different opponents. Clemson opens its home schedule September 7 vs. Louisiana Tech. Clemson is 2-1 in home openers under Tommy Bowden. Clemson lost to Marshall in Bowden's first game as Clemson coach in 1999, then defeated The Citadel and Central Florida in its last two season openers, which were played at home.