Tiger defense is toughing up

Armed with a roll of tissue paper in his hand, Koenning walked into the meeting room prior to the No. 20 Tigers' 54-0 victory over S.C. State last Saturday and instantly got his team's attention.

"I think it got a lot of people's attention," Clemson safety Michael Hamlin said Monday. "Coach Vic is the kind of guy who can tell you a story about something, I guess.

"He used the tissue as a way of saying how soft we are."

Koenning said the tissue paper was a gift given to him by someone on his way to the meeting in a response to the lack of toughness the Clemson defense had displayed in the first three weeks of the season.

"I think it kind of got to everybody," Hamlin said.

And obviously it worked.

The Tigers used the motivation to post their first shutout in two years, while holding S.C. State to 152 total yards. The Bulldogs ended the game with minus-10 yards rushing, while the defense forced four turnovers, their first recovered fumble of the season and three sacks.

"We are bunch of guys that have stepped up and have accepted the challenge," Hamlin said. "We got challenged the last couple of weeks about our toughness and I feel like we have responded well."

They have. The defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in eight straight quarters, while N.C. State and S.C. State have combined for just 440 yards the last two weeks.

"That was pretty big for us. I think the defense as a whole is getting a whole lot better as a unit," Hamlin said about the defense's confidence level. "Everybody is starting to eliminate their missed assignments and everybody is getting a full understanding on what is going on."

Clemson (3-1, 1-0 ACC) will be challenged even more this week as they take on a Maryland team this Saturday in Death Valley that is riding high after back-to-back wins, including a victory over then No. 23 California two weeks ago.

"I'm expecting them to come in and give it all they got," Hamlin said. "I know every time we play them they give us their ‘A' game.

"I feel like there is going to be a lot of emotion flying around on Saturday morning."

The Terrapins (3-1) enter their first ACC game with a lot of confidence on the offensive side of the ball. They know playing in Death Valley will be tough, but they feel like moving the football will not be a problem after scoring six touchdowns in their 51-24 victory over Eastern Michigan.

"We were very consistent," Maryland quarterback Chris Turner told the Associated Press.

The 51 points were the most points a Terrapin team has put up since it scored 54 points against Duke in 2004.

"I know last year Coach (Tommy) Bowden stressed what type of guy (Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen) is. How he is hardnosed and will try and pound us," Hamlin said. "I know when they watch film and they watch the Alabama game, they will probably feel like they have the running game to do that.

"I'm pretty sure Coach Vic will put in a package to basically shut it down." Or he will just bring in another roll of tissue paper. "Everybody kind of smiled about it at first, but when Coach Vic got to talking you could see how serious they all got. I don't think no one liked it," Hamlin said.

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