Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002
12:00 PM (EST)
Play By Play: Mark Jones
Sideline: Mike Hogewood
Radio: Clemson Tiger Sports Properties
Play By Play: Jim Phillips
Color: Rodney Williams
Sideline: Pete Yanity
Series History: Georgia Tech leads 43-21-2
Tigers Open ACC Schedule
Clemson opens its ACC schedule at home against Georgia Tech on Saturday, September 14 at 12:00 Noon at Death Valley. Clemson will play eight of its next nine games against ACC teams between September 14 and November 16. The league finale will be against Maryland at Clemson on the 16th of November. Clemson concludes its regular season the following Saturday against South Carolina.
This is the 50th ACC season and Clemson has a 29-19-1 record in its previous 49 ACC openers. Tommy Bowden is 2-1 in ACC openers as Clemson head coach. He defeated Virginia in 1999 in his league opener, then downed Wake Forest in 2000. Last year Virginia upset a top 25 Clemson team in the ACC opener on the last play of the game. Clemson is 15-10 in ACC openers at home, 13-9-1 on the road and 1-0 at neutral sites.
Clemson Has More ACC Wins than Any Other School Clemson was a charter member of the ACC in 1953 and this Saturday's game against Georgia Tech begins Clemson's 50th season in the league. Clemson has a record of 193-104-6 in conference play for its previous 49 seasons, a winning percentage of .647. Clemson's 193 victories are first among all conference teams in league games, 15 more than second place North Carolina, who has won 55 percent of its league games. Maryland is third with 168, while NC State is fourth at 165. Clemson has a winning record against every other ACC team since the league began with the exception of Florida State.
Clemson also leads the ACC in conference championships with 13. Florida State and Maryland are tied for second with nine (this includes co-championships). NC State and Duke are tied for fourth with seven wins apiece. Every current league member has won the league title at least once.
Clemson-Tech Series Has Been Thrilling
Georgia Tech has a 43-21-2 lead in the series with Clemson dating to a 23-0 Tiger win in Augusta, GA in 1898, just the 11th game in Clemson football history. In fact, Clemson won the first four games of the series, including games in 1902 and 1903 when John Heisman was at the helm. Clemson defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta 73-0 in 1903 with Heisman as head coach. Heisman then moved to Georgia Tech and defeated Clemson two years later (1905) by a 17-10 score.
The series was incredibly close in the 1990s and that trend has continued in the 21st century. Each of the last six games have been decided by exactly three points. That might be a first in college football history. We aren't talking by three points or less, but exactly three points.
Tech has won four of those six games, but Clemson won the last meeting, 47-44 in overtime in Atlanta last year. Tech won the last meeting at Death Valley, 31-28 in 2000. Tech also won in 1998, meaning they have won the last two meetings at Clemson.
The Tigers have a 7-4 advantage in games at Clemson, but Georgia Tech leads 39-11-2 in games played in Atlanta. Every game between the two teams in the 1907-74 era was held in Atlanta. Clemson's only wins in those 36 meetings came in 1907, 1936, 1945 and 1969. The 1969 victory was Frank Howard's final season as head coach.
The first time Georgia Tech played in Clemson's stadium was 1974, a 21-17 Clemson victory. Clemson has a 10-9 advantage in the series, regardless of site, since Tech joined the ACC in 1983. Tech actually joined for the 1979-80 academic year, but did not compete for the football championships until 1983.
Clemson had a four -game winning streak over Georgia Tech snapped in 1997 when Tech won in Atlanta, 23-20. Clemson broke a four-game Tech winning streak last year with a 47-44 overtime victory. Since Tommy Bowden has been the head coach, the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech games have been high scoring as the average score has been 40-39 in favor of Tech.
Woodrow Dantzler had one of the best all-around games of his career with 164 yards rushing and 254 yards passing in the victory a year ago. He threw for two scores and ran for two, including a 38-yard "Hail Mary Run" on the last play of the first half to cut Tech's lead to 19-14 at intermission. His 63-yard scoring pass to J.J. McKelvey with 1:58 left put Clemson ahead by three, but Tech tied the count with a 20-yard field goal with just six seconds left. Dantzler's "walk-off" 11-yard touchdown in overtime gave Clemson the win.
As you can see by the chart below, 10 of the last 12 meetings have been decided by four points or less and nine of those have been by three points or less.
Clemson vs. Georgia Tech Recent Thrillers
|1990||Tech 21-19||Gardocki missed 60 yard FG with 1 minute left|
|1991||Clemson 9-7||Ronald Williams 2 yard run with 2:06 left, Sisson missed 44-yard FG with 8 seconds left tipped by Wayne Simmons|
|1992||Tech 20-16||Clemson never in Tech territory in last 5 minutes|
|1993||Clemson 16-13||Tech's Jarrett misses 41-yard FG with 3:01 left|
|1996||Clemson 28-25||Nealon Greene 1 run with 4:10 left|
|1997||Tech, 23-20||Chambers 20-yard FG with 1:54 left|
|1998||Tech, 24-21||Joe Burns 1-yard run, 1:00 left|
|1999||Tech, 45-42||Hamilton threw for 5 TDs and 322 yards for Tech|
|2000||Tech, 31-28||Godsey throws TD pass to Watkins with 7 seconds|
|2001||Clemson, 47-44||Dantzler scores on 11 yard run to end game in OT|
The first three meetings between Clemson and Georgia Tech in the Tommy Bowden era have been offensive shootouts. All three games have been decided by exactly three points as stated above, but the two teams have combined for an average of 79 points per game between them. The aggregate score for the last meetings is Georgia Tech 120, Clemson 117, or an average score of 40-39 in favor of Tech.
But, a look to the two teams so far indicates this could be a game dominated by defense. Here is a list of facts based on the latest ACC stats that back up that belief:
Clemson Downs Louisiana Tech
Clemson opened its home portion of the 2002 schedule with a 33-13 victory over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. It was Clemson's second victory over Louisiana Tech in its last three games. The two teams met in the Humanitarian Bowl to end the 2001 season, a 49-24 Clemson win in Boise, ID.
Clemson Downs Louisiana Tech
Clemson opened its home portion of the 2002 schedule with a 33-13 victory over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. It was Clemson's second victory over Louisiana Tech in its last three games. The two teams met in the Humanitarian Bowl to end the 2001 season, a 49-24 Clemson win in Boise, ID.
Yusef Kelly and Aaron Hunt had career games to pace the Clemson offense. Kelly scored three touchdowns and had a career high 97 yards rushing, while Hunt booted four field goals, including a 47-yarder in the first half that was the second longest of his career. Willie Simmons connected on a career high 25 of 43 passes for a career high 242 yards. He did not throw any touchdown passes, but didn't throw an interception either. It was the most pass attempts by a Tiger in a Clemson victory in history.
Clemson won the turnover margin stat, 4-1, thanks to another outstanding showing by the Tiger defense. Clemson intercepted Luke McCown three times and limited the preseason WAC Player of the Year to 213 yards and no touchdown passes. It was the first time since the 2000 season that he did not throw a touchdown pass and the yardage total was his third lowest in 22 games as a starter.
Brian Mance, Justin Miller and Mo Fountain had interceptions to pace the defense. Nick Eason added seven tackles, including a 12-yard sack that pinned Louisiana Tech back on its one-yard line. John Leake led the way with 17 tackles, while senior Rodney Thomas continued his outstanding final season with 13 tackles. Donnell Washington added six tackles from a defensive tackle position. It was another fine all-around effort from the swarming Clemson defense that listed 17 different players with three tackles or more.
Clemson scored a touchdown on its first possession of the game on a short run by Kelly. But Louisiana Tech cut the margin to 17-13 at halftime. But that was all the scoring the Bulldogs would get as Clemson won the second half 16-0 thanks to three field goals by Hunt and a short scoring drive after a 43-yard interception return by Fountain.
Special Teams Improved
While Clemson played well overall in its 31-28 loss at eighth ranked Georgia there were areas of concern on special teams that demanded immediate attention from Head Coach Tommy Bowden. Many of those areas were special teams.
Based on the performance against Louisiana Tech, improvement was made. In terms of punting, Wynn Kopp improved from a 37-yard average to a 47.5 yard average. Aaron Hunt was 0-2 on field goals at Georgia, then made 4-4 against Louisiana Tech. Clemson allowed a 91-yard kickoff return for a score at Georgia, the first kick return for a score against a Tommy Bowden coached team. In the win over Louisiana Tech, the kickoff return coverage team forced a turnover and allowed just 18.3 yards per kickoff return, ahead of the 20.3 by the Clemson team in 2001 that led the ACC.
Georgia Tech Update
For the second year in a row Clemson will face an undefeated Georgia Tech team. Tech was 3-0 heading into last year's game in Atlanta on September 29th. Tech defeated Vanderbilt and Head Coach Bobby Johnson, a Clemson graduate, by a 45-3 margin in the 2002 opener. They followed that up with a 31-14 win at UCONN in front of 16,751 fans. Now, a week later Tech will play in front of 80,000 people in Death Valley.
Georgia Tech has been outstanding in all phases of the game, but especially on defense. The Yellow Jackets have allowed just 17 points all year and have not given up a rushing touchdown over the first two games of the season. Teams are averaging just 86.5 yards a game on the ground and 150.5 yards a game through the air. Recardo Wimbush is certainly one of the leaders of the defense with 13 tackes. Keyaron Fox and Ather Brown are second on the club with eight stops. Greg Gathers is an all-conference defensive lineman.
Clemson will be challenged by this Tech defense. Georgia Tech has not allowed a point over the first three quarters in two games this year. The only points they have yielded have come in the fourth period when Tech was leading by a sizeable margin. Tech is 11th in the nation in scoring defense, 28th in rushing defense and 26th in pass efficiency defense.
Tech's defensive coordinator is Jon Tenuta, a Virginia graduate who was North Carolina's defensive coordinator last year. Clemson coaches are certainly aware of the performance North Carolina's defense demonstrated in Death Valley last year. The Tar Heels limited the Tigers to but three points and held Woody Dantzler to a two-year low of 127 yards total offense.
Tony Hollings, a defensive player last year, has been the talk of the ACC and perhaps the nation when it comes to the running game. Hollings has a 9.0 per carry average and has scored six touchdowns for the first two games. He has 297 yards on the ground to rank sixth in the nation. He also ranks second in the country in scoring with 18 points per game. Kerry Watkins in the top pass catcher with seven catches for 159 yards. The last time he came to Death Valley, he caught the game-winning pass with seven seconds left from George Godsey. This year, Watkins receives passes from AJ Suggs. The first-year signal caller has thrown just 27 passes in two games, but he has a 190.4 efficiency rating, has three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Chan Gailey, the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, will make his first trip to Clemson as Georgia Tech head coach. Gailey succeeded Terry Bowden, Tommy Bowden's brother, as head coach at Samford University in 1993.
Clemson Defense Much Improved
Clemson continued to show improvement on defense in its 33-13 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. Clemson allowed just 293 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs, the second straight game the opposition has failed to reach the 300-yard mark. Clemson had allowed the opposition at least 300 yards in 17 straight games heading into the 2002 season. Clemson has now given up just 496 yards of total offense in two games, the third best two-game total since 1991. Only the 2000 defense, which was ranked number-one in total defense through five games that year, and the 1998 defense had a better two-game total defense figure over the last 11 years.
Clemson allowed 395 yards a game last year, so it is easy to see the 248 figure for the first two games this year is considerably better. Clemson has allowed just 3.7 yards per game, much improved from the 5.3 allowed per play a year ago.
Many of the times the opposition has scored it has been the result of difficult field position after a turnover or a long kick return. Over the first two games the opposition has taken possession of the ball at their own 38 or worse 19 times. They have driven for a touchdown just one time in those 19 possessions. The defense has a streak of 17 straight possessions without yielding a touchdown in that situation. Forcing turnovers has also been a plus. Clemson has forced seven turnovers in two games. It took Clemson seven games to reach seven forced turnovers a year ago.
Clemson has a +5 turnover margin through two games, a reversal of the -5 turnover margin Clemson had last year. How good is forcing 3.5 turnovers per game? The Clemson record for turnovers forced per game is 3.42 set in 1981. That Clemson team won the National Championship. Most coaches will tell you that turnover margin is the most important statistic and that above fact certainly gives credence to that belief.
What is especially encouraging to Clemson coaches is that Clemson has achieved these numbers against teams that are solid on offense. Georgia has eight offensive starters returning from a team that averaged 432 yards a game last year, but got just 203 yards against Clemson. Louisiana Tech averaged over 400 yards and 30 points a game last year, but got just 13 points and 293 yards against Clemson.
John Lovett New Clemson Defensive Coordinator John Lovett, defensive coordinator at Auburn for the last three seasons, was named Defensive Coordinator at Clemson last spring. Lovett has been an assistant coach at the college level for 23 years, including 13 seasons as a defensive coordinator. He has experience working with all levels of the defense, but has spent most of his seasons in the game coaching the secondary and outside linebacker position. Lovett is coaching the secondary at Clemson. Jack Hines, who coached the secondary at Clemson the last three years, has moved to the linebackers.
Lovett helped Auburn to bowl games each of the last two years. His 2000 defense ranked 14th in the nation in total defense and 15th in rushing defense, helping the Tigers to a 9-4 record and a berth in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan. Auburn won the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference that season.
In 2001, his defense had a lot to do with Auburn's berth in the Peach Bowl. One of Auburn's victories was a 23-20 triumph over then #1 ranked Florida. Lovett's defense held Florida to 20 points, -36 yards rushing and 328 yards of total offense, season lows in all three categories for Steve Spurrier's team that finished the season ranked third in the nation. The Tigers also forced five turnovers in the game, including four interceptions of passes thrown by Heisman Trophy finalist Rex Grossman. Lovett's defense also held Georgia's high-powered attack to but 17 points in a 24-17 Auburn triumph.
The 51-year-old coach, who was born in Nyack, NY, worked under Tommy Tuberville, the last seven years, four at Mississippi (1995-98) and three at Auburn (1999-01). He coached the secondary all four years he was at Mississippi, including the 1997 season when the Rebels had an 8-4 record, including a victory in the Ford Motor City Bowl.
Prior to coming to Mississippi in 1995, Lovett worked as defensive coordinator at the University of Maine for two stints. He first went to Orono in 1985 and served as defensive coordinator and secondary coach from 1985-88. He also served as defensive coordinator for the Black Bears in 1994. The 1987 team won the conference championship and qualified for the Division I-AA playoffs.
Leake Leads Defense
The top returning tackler on the Clemson defense is junior John Leake and he has led the team so far this year with 28 tackles, 11 against Georgia and 17 against Louisiana Tech. The native of Plano, TX had 134 tackles last year, an increase of 125 stops over his freshman year. Leake never played a snap on defense as a freshman, then played 687 last year when he ranked second for the course of the season behind the now graduated Chad Carson.
Leake's quickness in the middle of the Clemson point prevention unit has been a big reason Clemson has limited teams to but 3.7 yards per play and just eight yards per pass reception. He had 17 tackles to lead the Clemson defense against Louisiana Tech.
Leake is ranked 23rd in the nation among linebackers by The Sporting News in its preseason publication. He ranked 11th in the ACC in tackles per game last year and led the team in tackles in five of the 12 games. He had a season high 19 tackles in the win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Leake has football in his blood. His father played for Wyoming as a wide receiver in the 1960s. He opened the 2002 season with a strong game, as he had eight tackles to rank second on the team. He also led the team with a pair of tackles for loss and had much to do with Clemson's ability to hold Georgia to but 203 yards of total offense.
Youngblood Ranked in Top 10 in Nation Kevin Youngblood has already exceeded the reception total of his freshman season with his 16 catches in two games this year. The junior from Jacksonville, FL missed all of last year with a broken leg, but has started fast in 2002.
Youngblood had six catches for 66 yards at Georgia to establish a career high in terms of receptions. He also caught a 21-yard scoring strike from quarterback Willie Simmons. He then trumped that with 10 receptions for 89 yards in the win over Louisiana Tech. Through two games he has 16 catches to lead the ACC and rank ninth in the nation in receptions per game.
No Clemson player has led the ACC in receptions per game over the course of the season since 1980 when Perry Tuttle led the league. The only other Clemson player to be the receptions champion for a season is Jerry Butler in 1978.
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.
Kelly Leads Ground Game
Yusef Kelly (formerly Keith Kelly his first two years at Clemson) had a career high 25 attempts for 97 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Louisiana Tech. Kelly now has four touchdowns for the year to exceed his previous career high and ranks ninth in the nation in scoring with 12 points per game.
Kelly's 97 yards against Louisiana Tech broke his previous career high of 93 yards against Wake Forest in 2000. Kelly sat out last year as a red-shirt. He got his chance in the lineup when Bernard Rambert was in street clothes due tendonitis in a foot. Kelly enters this week's play ranked seventh in the ACC in rushing yards per game.
Hunt Records Career Best Game
Aaron Hunt established a career best for field goals in a game with four in the win over Louisiana Tech. The junior from Tennessee was 4-4 in the game and scored 15 of Clemson's 33 points. He became the first Clemson player to record four field goals in a game since 1998 when David Richardson had four in the season opener. Hunt's day included a 47-yard field goal, second longest boot of his career.
Hunt had field goals of 47, 22, 37 and 38 yards, distances that total to 144 yards. That was the seventh most yards on made field goals in a single game in Clemson history. Hunt was 10-12 last year on field goals and is now 4-6 this year. He ranks ninth in the nation in field gals per game and is 36th in scoring entering this week. He leads the ACC in field goals and kick scoring points per game.
Simmons Establishes Career Highs
Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons completed 25 of 43 passes for 242 yards in the win over Louisiana Tech. Simmons did a good job of taking what the Bulldog defense gave him and completed passes to 10 different receivers. That was a career high in terms of completions, attempts and passing yards for Simmons, who was making his first start in Death Valley and just his second start anywhere.
Simmons set a school record for pass completions and attempts by an individual in a Clemson victory. The Clemson team threw 44 passes in the game and it was just the second time Clemson had thrown 40 or more passes in a game and gained victory in the process. Clemson was 1-16 prior to the Louisiana Tech game when throwing at least 40 passes. The only other victory came at Wake Forest in 1999.
Simmons 25 completions rank in a tie for fourth in Clemson history for a single game. The record is 27 set by Brandon Streeter against NC State in 1998 and at Virginia Tech in 1999. Simmons 43 attempts was tied for fifth highest, most ever in a Clemson victory. It was the most pass attempts by an individual without an interception in school history.
Hall of Fame Weekend
Former Clemson football great William "Refrigerator" Perry highlights the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2002. The group of six new inductees will be honored during halftime of the September 14 game against Georgia Tech.
In addition to Perry, the 2002 class includes former football star Gary Barnes (1959-61), former women's basketball All-American Mary Ann Cubelic-Grant (1979-83), former baseball All-American Bert Heffernan (1985-88), former golf All-American Kevin Johnson (1985-89), and current Athletic Director Bobby Robinson.
In addition to the six former Tiger greats listed above, former men's basketball coach Bill Foster (1975-84) will also be inducted on Saturday. Foster was voted into the Hall of Fame last year, but was unable to attend the ceremony when it was moved to the winter from the fall due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He led Clemson to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament in 1980.
Perry was an All-American at Clemson in 1982-83-84, the first three-time All-American in Clemson history. The three-time All-ACC middle guard led the nation in tackles for loss per game in 1984 with 27. He was named ACC Player of the Year in 1984 when he was a Lombardi Award Finalist.
A starter as a freshman on Clemson's 1981 National Championship team, he is the seventh member of that squad to be elected to the Clemson Hall of Fame. He was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears in 1985 and was a member of the Bears World Championship team that year. He played nine years in the NFL with Chicago and Philadelphia.
Barnes was a first-team All-ACC receiver in 1959, his sophomore season, when he helped the Tigers to a 9-2 record He will always be remembered for his 68-yard touchdown reception from Harvey White in the fourth quarter of the 1959 Bluebonnet Bowl win over seventh ranked TCU. That remains the longest touchdown reception in Clemson bowl history.
Barnes was a three-year starter, and played in the East-West All-Star game at the conclusion of the 1961 season. He was then was a third-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 1962 draft and went on to a five-year NFL career. He scored the first points in the history of the Atlanta Falcons franchise in 1966. He is now a judge in the city of Clemson.
Heffernan was a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 1988, his senior year. One of Coach Bill Wilhelm's favorite players in his 36 years at the helm of the Clemson program, Heffernan hit .337 as a senior and for his 259-game Clemson career. The all-around catcher hit 27 home runs, stole 54 bases and socked out 335 hits.
The native New Yorker is still Clemson's career leader in games played, at bats, runs scored and walks. The two-time first-team All-ACC catchers is third in career hits at Clemson. At the conclusion of his Clemson career, he was a ninth-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in the Major Leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 1992.
Cubelic earned first-team All-ACC honors in 1981-82 and 1982-83, and was an honorable mention All-American as a senior in 1982-83. The native of Columbia, SC finished her career with 1501 career points, fifth on the all-time Clemson list. Her 651 career field goals rank fourth best in Clemson history.
Cubelic teamed with all-time great Barbara Kennedy in leading the Lady Tigers to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982. Cubelic averaged a career best 17.1 points per game that year. She was voted the team's top defensive player that year.
Johnson was Clemson's first three-time All-American in golf. He was a third-team choice in 1987 as a sophomore, then made first-team as a junior and second-team as a senior. He was the ACC champion in 1988 as a junior and was a three-time first-team All-ACC selection. He went on to play in the World Cup and the Walker Cup in 1989. He won the United States Public Links Championship in 1987 and was the runnerup in 1988. Professionally, Johnson is currently a member of the BUY.com Tour. He has won three career BUY.com events, more than any other former Tiger.
Robinson was the Clemson athletic director from 1985-02. During his tenure as athletic director Clemson won 57 ACC championships. All 19 of Clemson's sports programs have been ranked in the top 20 at one time or another and 12 different programs have been ranked in the top five nationally. Nine times Clemson has ranked in the top 25 nationally in the All-Sports rankings.
Robinson was honored by the state of South Carolina this past April 17 when he was presented the Order of the Palmetto for his service to the state. Robinson opened Vickery Hall in 1991. It was the first stand-alone facility for student-athlete enrichment in the nation, a concept many schools have copied.
Robinson also served as Clemson's golf coach from 1974-83. He brought the program its first ACC championship in 1982, then delivered the program's first number-five national finish in 1983. He will retire from his post as Clemson Athletic Director on July 1.
Losing First Game Not Always a Bad Sign Clemson lost its season opener at Georgia on August 31, but losing the opener is not always a bad sign for the Tigers. In fact, the last five times Clemson has lost its season opener, the Tigers have gone on to a bowl game or won at least nine games.
In 1999, Tommy Bowden's first year, Clemson lost the opener to Marshall, but finished with a 6-6 record and a Peach Bowl bid. That Clemson team played the 10th toughest schedule in the nation that year and four of the six losses were to teams who finished the year ranked in the top 15 in the nation.
Clemson lost the season opener to North Carolina in 1996, 45-0, but came back to finish 7-4 in the regular season and played in the Peach Bowl. Clemson lost the opener at home in 1986 to Virginia Tech, then lost just one more game the rest of the year on the way to a Gator Bowl bid and a top 20 season.
The Tigers lost the opener of 1982 at Georgia, 13-7, then went the rest of the year without a loss, finishing 9-1-1. Clemson was on probation that year and could not go to a bowl. The 1977 team lost the opener to 10th ranked Maryland, then finished 8-4 with its first bowl bid in 18 years.
Clemson Has Sold 56,808 Season Tickets
Clemson Ticket Manager Van Hilderbrand has announced that Clemson has sold 56,808 season tickets for the 2002 season. The number is the highest ever for a seven-game home schedule and the sixth highest figure in history. It is the second highest figure since 1990. Hilderbrand pointed out that season tickets are still available.
"Considering this is a seven-game schedule and thus a season ticket that is $34 higher than last year, we have had outstanding sales," said Hilderbrand.
The previous record for a seven-game home schedule took place in 1991 when Clemson sold 55,322 season tickets after a 10-2 1990 season. Last year Clemson sold 57,506 season tickets for its six game package. The Tigers ranked 14th in the nation in average attendance last year with an average of 80,152, the second highest season average in Clemson history.
Miller Shows All-Around Abilities
Freshman defensive back Justin Miller had a reception and an interception against Louisiana Tech, an example of his fine all-around abilities. The first-year player had a nine-yard reception in the first half and an interception in the endzone at a key juncture of the second half to thwart a Bulldog drive.
It marked the first time since 1964 that a Clemson player had an interception and a reception in the same game. Pat Crain was the last to do it as he had a 15-yard interception return and a reception against Virginia on Halloween of 1964. It should be noted that players went both ways in those days, so Miller was the first to do it in the two-platoon era. Miller also had three tackles in the game and played 29 snaps. With the season ending injury to starter Toure Francis, Miller will get a lot of action this season.
Henry To Make First Start
With the injury to Derrick Brantley, William Henry, a native of nearby Greenville and Greenville High School, will make his first career start this Saturday afternoon against Georgia Tech. Henry played just 42 snaps in three games in 2001 and played just 22 plays in two games in 2000. He red-shirted 1999, so that means he played just 64 snaps in five games entering the Louisiana Tech game. He did not play in the opener against Georgia.
But, Henry responded against Louisiana Tech. Brantley was injured in the third period, the 43rd offensive play of the game for Clemson. Henry played the last 37 plays and had an 81 percent technique grade, the best among the offensive linemen for the game. He had three knockdown blocks in his 37 plays and had an overall performance grade of 89 percent, second best in the game behind Greg Walker's 91 percent.
Henry is a graduate student, but still has this year and 2003 to play. He earned his degree in just three years and a couple of summers in sociology. He was born on October 30, 1981, just one day prior to Clemson's 82-24 win over Wake Forest, a big win in Clemson's National Championship season.
Byrd Leads Offensive Line
Gary Byrd is the leader of Clemson's offensive line. With the injury to Derrick Brantley, a veteran of eight career starts, the leadership burden is even heavier for Byrd. A graduate student from Stone Mountain, GA, Byrd has started two bowl games at Clemson, the 2001 Gator Bowl against Virginia Tech and the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl against Louisiana Tech. He is a veteran of over 1300 career plays and has been a common denominator on two of the most productive offenses in Clemson history.
Byrd has played well so far this year. In the win over Louisiana Tech he had an 85 percent total performance grade, including an 80 percent technique grade from Clemson line coach Ron West. He led the Tigers in knockdown blocks in the game with 11 and was a big reason Clemson scored 33 points in the contest. He had six knockdowns in the season opener against Georgia.
Last Year's Meeting with Georgia Tech
Woodrow Dantzler's decision in overtime to keep the ball and cut through the middle of the Georgia Tech defense resulted in a game-winning 11-yard touchdown run and a Tiger victory. The win was Clemson's first against Georgia Tech since 1996, and continued an unbelievable streak of six straight years in which the annual contest between these schools has been decided by three points.
Clemson remained unbeaten in overtime games in school history, and by defeating #9 Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA, the Tigers accomplished their highest-ranked road win since 1981 when they defeated the eighth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels en route to the National Championship.
Dantzler, who rightfully can claim the largest stake in the Tiger win, narrowed the gap between himself and a number of impressive records while leading Clemson to its third win of the season. He finished with 164 yards rushing in addition to completing 18 of 32 passes for 254 yards, and in doing so eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark for his career. Dantzler became the all-time leading rusher among ACC quarterbacks on the winning score.
Dantzler and the Tigers allowed Georgia Tech to draw first blood, when Luke Manget kicked a 22-yard field goal following a fumble by the quarterback. Dantzler would complete all three of his passes on Clemson's ensuing possession, and the Tigers would grab their first lead of the game when Travis Zachery plowed in for a three-yard touchdown run.
After Manget nailed a 47-yard field goal late in the first quarter, the Yellow Jackets would regain the lead when Will Glover caught George Godsey's pass in the Tiger end zone for a 16-yard scoring effort. Tech would extend its lead to 19-7 when running back Joe Burns crossed the goal line from one yard out; the two-point conversion failed. Dantzler would lead the Tigers back into contention on the final play of the first half. Avoiding the pass rush, Dantzler broke up the middle, scampered to the outside of the field, and followed his blockers down the right sideline to the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown run as time expired, cutting the Tech lead to 19-14.
In the third quarter, Dantzler would waste little time picking up where he left off in the first half by connecting with Matt Bailey on a 55-yard touchdown, which also gave the Tigers their second lead of the game. Tech countered less than two minutes later when George Godsey took advantage of the blitzing Tigers' defense, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Kelly Campbell to put the Yellow Jackets up by five 26-21. Dantzler would lead the Tiger offense on an ensuing possession that lasted over five minutes and covered 80 yards on 13 plays. The possession was finished off by Zachery's second three-yard touchdown run of the game, and Clemson led going into the fourth quarter by one, 27-26.
After forcing Georgia Tech to punt, Dantzler led the offense on an even more impressive drive, going 80 yards over 18 plays and taking 6:25 off the clock. Zachery tasted the end zone for the third time at the end of the drive, and his two-yard run gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 34-26. It was Clemson's fourth straight touchdown drive of 79 yards or more.
Joe Burns tallied his second one-yard score on Tech's next drive, and after the Tigers were forced to punt, Ford would put the Yellow Jackets back on top 38-34 with a 10-yard touchdown run with under four minutes to play in regulation.
The Tiger hopes of victory hung in the balance on their next offensive possession. Dantzler however, stepped up and overcame adversity. His 63-yard completion to J.J. McKelvey on fourth down and 13 resulted in a touchdown and gave the Tigers their fourth lead of the game at 41-38. But Tech drove 87 yards in the remaining 1:58 and Manget's third field goal would tie the game with six seconds to play in regulation, sending both teams into overtime.
Reggie Herring's defense asked to be on the field first, and they did not disappoint. Luke Manget was forced to kick his career-high fourth field goal of the game after the Tigers stopped Joe Burns on third down and one for a no gain.
Clemson's first and only possession will undoubtedly live on in the memories of many Tiger fans. Facing third down and five, McKelvey added to his stellar performance with an acrobatic catch along the sideline for a first down at the 15 yard line. His catch helped set up the winning play, on which Dantzler kept the football on third down and six, sliced up the middle following Travis Zachery, and finally scampered through the back of the end zone.
Clemson gained 502 yards of offense, second-highest total ever against a ranked team. Dantzler was named National Player-of-the-Week by USAToday.com. John Leake led the defense with 19 tackles, while Charles Hafley had 15 tackles and an interception.
Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
Last Meeting at Death Valley
Kerry Watkins made a one-hand diving catch in the back of the Clemson endzone with just seven seconds left to give Georgia Tech a 31-28 victory at Death Valley in 2000. The Tech victory ended Clemson's eight-game winning streak to open the season. It marked the fourth straight year Tech had beaten Clemson by exactly three points.
For the second straight game Clemson had to go without Woodrow Dantzler at quarterback due to an injury. Willie Simmons came off the bench and played well, connecting on 9-18 passes for 131 yards, including a 18-yard scoring pass to Rod Gardner with just 1:52 left, a play that many thought would give Clemson its ninth straight win.
Travis Zachery had a strong day for Clemson with 16-101 rushing, his third 100-yard day in the last four outings. He also caught a 29-yard scoring pass from Dantzler in the first half. He finished with 150 all-purpose yards for the afternoon.
Clemson burst to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. Clemson forced a Tech punt on the first possession of the game and Toure Francis burst through to block it. Joel Gardner recovered at the Georgia Tech one-yard-line. Dantzler scored from there.
After a Tech field goal, Clemson drove 72 yards in just six plays behind Dantzler and Zachery. The duo hooked up on a 29-yard touchdown pass, giving Clemson a 14-3 lead just halfway through the first period. That score was the 49th touchdown of the season, a new single season Clemson record.
But, Georgia Tech took command the rest of the half, going on a 16-0 run to take the lead at intermission. George Godsey, who threw for a Clemson opponent record 454 yards and completed 35 passes on the day, hit Kerry Watkins on a 33-yard scoring pass with 7:47 to go before halftime. That would be Tech's only touchdown over the first 53 minutes of the game.
It was a defensive struggle in the third period. Clemson's punt return team broke the ice on the next to the last play of the third period. Brian Mance raced 88 yards with a Tech punt, giving Clemson a 21-16 lead heading into the final period. It was Clemson's 50th touchdown of the season.
Tech came back to take a 24-21 advantage with 6:35 to go. Godsey hit Kelly Campbell on a 48-yard touchdown pass to give Tech the lead. Campbell finished the day with 14 catches for 209 yards, the most catches ever against Clemson.
But, two possessions later, Clemson took the lead 28-24. Simmons hit Gardner in the back of the Clemson end zone on a 18-yard scoring pass to culminate a 3 play 42-yard drive. But, Tech still had time. Behind Godsey, who hit 7-11 passes on the drive, Tech drove 80 yards in 11 plays and with just seven seconds left, Watkins made his sterling catch.
Chad Carson, a native of Georgia, had 22 tackles to lead the Clemson defense, which was on the field for 97 plays this day. Alex Ardley had 17 tackles, while Charles Hafley added 13. Nick Eason had nine tackles, most by a Clemson defensive lineman this season, and also had two tackles for loss, including a sack.
The Season Opener
#8 Georgia 31, Clemson 28
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 penalties 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.
Defensive Ends Provide Big Plays
Clemson defensive ends have provided two big plays in the first two games of the season. In the win over Louisiana Tech, sophomore Mo Fountain raced 43 yards with an interception to set up a game clinching TD. 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 four more against Louisiana Tech, giving him exactly 100 for his career. He has 13 career sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his 38 games at Clemson. If he stays healthy and plays in every game this year he will become Clemson's career leader in games played.
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 received Tony Elliott had the second catch of his Clemson career, a 20-yard reception at an important juncture of the second half at Georgia . He added a fumble recovery and another reception against Louisiana Tech, a game he started in place of injured Derrick Hamilton. 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 Georgia game, Toure Francis. Francis was a starting cornerback in the game, but suffered a knee injury just 12 plays into the contest. He will be out for the season with a torn ACL. 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.
Four Appearances on ESPN for Tigers
The Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game will be the second of four appearances for the Tigers on ESPN during the regular season. This will be the most live regular season appearances on ESPN for Clemson. Clemson's season opener was also on the network. This Saturday's game will be shown live at 12:00 Noon and will be broadcast by the team of Mark Jones and former Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie.
Clemson has been on ESPN four times in a season in 1989, 1997 and 1999, but each of those seasons included a bowl game appearance on the world's top sports network. Clemson was 4-0 in games on ESPN in 1989, 1-3 in 1997 and 0-4 in 1999.
Clemson is 13-22 in live broadcasts on ESPN over the years, but won its last outing of last year on the network, the 49-24 win over Louisiana Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl. Clemson has played 24 games on a tape-delayed basis on ESPN, all between 1979 and 1984. Clemson was 15-8-1 in those games. Thus, Clemson's all-time record on ESPN is 28-30-1 lifetime.
In addition to the two games mentioned above, The Clemson vs. Florida State game (Oct. 3) and Clemson vs. NC State game (Oct. 24) will be part of the ESPN Thursday night package.
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.