For the Clemson Tigers it was the same ole, same ole against a quality football team with all of the college football world watching.
With expectations at an all-time high, the ninth-ranked Tigers were again
embarrassed by a bigger and more physical team. This time it was No. 24 Alabama, who
pummeled the Tigers, 34-10, inside the Georgia Dome.
"We got whipped about every way you can get whipped," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said.
This was supposed to be the year Clemson answered its critics and proved once and
for all it belong alongside the nation's elite.
Instead, the Tigers were hit square
in the jaw by a far more physical and powerful Alabama football team, that has been
predicted to do know better than third in the SEC's Western Division.
Clemson starters Ricky Sapp, Barry Humphries and Jacoby Ford were all knocked out of
the game before the end of the first half, while the Tigers rushed for just one yard.
Quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked three times and pressured countless more.
"We haven't been beaten physically that bad in three years," Bowden said.
The Tigers have been here before, though. With a 7-1 record and a No. 10 national
ranking in 2006, Virginia Tech flattened them on national television. Last year, the
Hokies did the same thing at Clemson in a 41-23 victory.
This year, Alabama rushed for 239 yards, while amassing 419 total yards in 80 plays.
The 24th-ranked Tide ran 80 plays and hung onto the ball for 41:13.
"This was disappointing," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "That's a credit
to Alabama. They obviously wanted it and got us on our heels."
Clemson on the other hand could do nothing offensively. The Tigers totaled just 188
yards offense in 48 plays and had just one scoring drive which ended in a Mark
Buchholz field goal of 33 yards with 14:17 to play in the second quarter.
"This was not what we expected," Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford said. "We are a
much better team than what we played like tonight."
Ford, who caught two passes for 53 yards, left the game in the second quarter with a
concussion after landing on his head while trying to catch a pass. His 47-yard first
quarter reception from quarterback Cullen Harper setup Buchholz's field goal.
"We knew they were going to be physical," Ford said. "They always say the SEC is
physical. We knew this would be a physical environment. We tried to do our best
against a physical team like that, but it just didn't work the way we wanted it to
"They were just a better team than us."
Bama (1-0) knocked the Tigers in the mouth right from the start. Averaging nearly five
yards per rush, the Tide took a 13-0 lead on Leigh Tiffin field goals of 54 and 21
yards and a 1-yard John Parker Wilson touchdown.
"We thought we could control the line of scrimmage," defensive tackle Da'Quan Bowers
said. "But they came out with a lot of intensity and they kind of caught us off
guard. They did a great job coming off the ball."
Clemson (0-1) tried to answer when Harper hit Ford on a post route about 10 yards up
the field and the All-American track star split the secondary with a 47-yard gain to
the Alabama 25. But the drive stalled after Harper suffered an 11-yard loss thanks
to a Brandon Deaderick sack.
After a third-and-21 pass netted 10 yards, Buchholz got the Tigers on the board with
a 33-yard field goal with 3:34 to play.
Any hope the Tiger faithful had in a comeback, however, ended on Alabama's next
possession. Aided by two pass interference penalties, the Crimson Tide went right at
Clemson with a 14-play, 83-yard drive. Wilson capped the drive with a 4-yard scoring
toss to Nick Walker on first-and-goal.
Clemson initially stopped the Crimson Tide on third down at the start of the drive,
but DeAndre McDaniel was penalized for pass interference on a third down-and-five
play from the Bama 38. Wilson's 4-yard scoring play to Walker gave the Tide a 20-3
lead with 6:01 to play. The drive consumed eight minutes and 16 seconds of the
Tiffin ended the half with a 34-yard field goal, giving Alabama a 23-3 lead.
C.J. Spiller gave Clemson fans something to cheer about to open the third quarter
when he took the opening kick 96 yards for Clemson's lone touchdown. But after that
nothing else really happened.
Wilson ended any aspirations of Clemson coming back with a 4-yard scoring pass, his
second of the day, to freshman Julio Jones for a 31-10 lead with 4:08 to play in the
Tigers Steamrolled by 'Bama
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