Tommy Bowden's Press Conference

CLEMSON - Clemson's 10th-year head coach talks about Thursday's game against No. 21 Wake Forest.

Since the format of the ACC has gone to a divisional format, the winner of the Atlantic Division has had at least two losses. Do you kind of treat each game from here on out like a single-elimination playoff game?
Bowden: You treat all the conference games the same but the circumstances change obviously. The need to win is magnified. You treat them all the same. They have more points. As the season goes, the significance of a loss.

You practiced a lot this weekend it sounds like after talking to the players.
Bowden: We practiced Saturday morning, Sunday. It was good. We don't practiced a lot on Sunday. We didn't practice Friday. We freshened up mentally and physically. Initially you think with an open date you think you've got Saturday off. That was a little deflating with the seniors when I told them that. It was a Saturday-Thursday format and it worked well. The open date has definitely helped with continuity, especially with the offensive line. The fact we had an open date really helped

Wake Forest under Jim Grobe, have they developed into a different team?
Bowden: Yes. It's called a good one. They don't do as much of that as they used to [strange blocking schemes]. They put a lot of burden on the quarterback and he's done a good job for a long time. It's still difficult but it's different preparation. They have a different quality of player now. Their technique has always been sound.

Isn't it a misconception that you haven't been successful against Wake Forest when you are actually 7-2 against this team since you've been here?
Bowden: Yeah it's hard. But since Coach Grobe has been there they have given most people fits. Every since he's been there is has been a really really close game.

Do any of your coaches have a different approach this week after losing to Maryland?
Bowden: I think the only difference would be, any time you see a game and you see what you did wrong, you put a point of emphasis on that. Other than that, there is really no change?

Our your coaches quicker to jump on your players now if they make a mistake given the state of the season?
Bowden: I would hope we are always pretty quick to correct a mistake. The thing you don't want to do with a team is make them uptight. The last thing you want your team to do is to feel like if they make a mistake the game is over. We don't need to play a perfect game against Wake Forest, but we need to play our best game. I would hope the coaches would coach every week with the same sense of urgency. And the players, well they need to feel that sense of urgency especially if the mistakes are offsides penalties and correctable mistakes. I hope they feel the sense of urgency. But you can't create an environment that is uptight. We made mistakes last week offensive, where coaches have to pay attention to detail- alignment, bad snap, etc.

Curious about your approach right now after starting the season in the top 10. From your personal perspective as a coach, is this the best of coaching where you have the opportunity to do something about it? Or the worst?
Bowden: It's coaching. That's what we do. In this profession, you are always adjusting to the environment. One of the hardest things, if you've won a bunch of games, is keeping the players level-headed. If you lose a game, then it's getting them up. They read the paper and the internet. If they win you have to moderate the over-confidence factor. If you lose it's the negative factor. I don't see it's the best or the worst of coaching. It's coaching. That's what you do form week to week. We talked yesterday about getting off the mat. It's not so much that you never get knocked down, it's if you get back up. You relate it to life and the real world.

Is this a game that is a crossroads game for your team after losing to Maryland to play a nationally-ranked team like Wake Forest?
Bowden: Every game is important. This one surely is. We play a 12-game schedule not a six game. We'll play a seventh and a ninth. This is the sixth. Regardless of what happens Thursday night, they won't call the season off. I think that's the best way to look at it.

What do you think about playing on Thursday night?
Bowden: The players like it because they are the only game on. Anybody always likes playing on TV.

Does it help having the bye-week before a game like this?
Bowden: If both teams have a short week than it's a equal problem. The team that traveled and played on a short week against a team that didn't was 0-5 [in the ACC]. But there is no advantage if both teams have similar preparation time.

Saturday morning, you probably had felt you worked your way through the disappointment of losing to Maryland. But then they lose to Virginia. Did you have to spin that
Bowden: I didn't have to do any spinning because I didn't say the things you said. The only thing I said yesterday is that everybody in the conference [in the Atlantic Division] has a loss except Wake Forest. And we play them Thursday.

And so that is the reason this game Thursday is so huge because if you lose you would be two games behind Wake?
Bowden: That would be one of the reasons. You want to win all of your conference games.

Is it fair to assume you'll get Wake Forest's best effort after the loss to Navy?
Bowden: You know, I would think so. I would think we would be fairly focused and they would be fairly focused and the one that executes the best will win. I don't know if they will be any more focused than us.

How important is this game from a confidence standpoint?
Bowden: The more you win the more confidence you get. There's no doubt about that.

Is there anything you can take away from Navy or is their offense so radically different you can't really do that?
Bowden: It's pretty radically different.

Is there any thought to giving Willy Korn time just to give other defensive coordinators something to think about?
Bowden: Well, you know, Cullen, like everybody else can play better. He's not playing bad. There hasn't been much ... I'd only think about that if I felt like execution at the quarterback position had something to do with us winning and losing. What you might get in the running skills, from an assignment standpoint, the other guy is ahead. I don't know if there would be an advantage. I don't know if you'd be bettering yourself [by just having better running skills] because the difference is not significant.

Is there something wrong with Aaron Kelly this year as he has not scored a touchdown yet? Problems with the downfield passing game?
Bowden: Well, you know. No. We've been running them in this year instead of throwing because we are having success running. We tried a slant pass on 3rd-and-2 down in the red zone because defensively Maryland's tendency was to blitz. But they played zone and we backed out and threw it away

What was it like last week dealing with the backlash of the Maryland loss?
Bowden: I don't know. My secretary goes through my mail. Anything significant the A.D. or Tim will tell me. But I'm not naive to the disappointment. But you have to practice seven times before your next game. You come to work early and go home late. You are aware of it but you have to go to work. You understand the profession and you know the good and the bad of it. If you can't handle public criticism then get out of it.

Don't you think you should be beyond the criticism that you've gotten just after this last loss considering you have been 10 years?
Bowden: Not really. Because expectations were extremely high. The fans are excited for wins and hungry for wins just like the coach is. I get more physically sick, as far as stomach and things like that. But that's the type of environment you want. The players here sense that type of passion. You get disappointed but that's what kind of what you want. You hate losing. You don't want to hear them say those things.

The talent level at Wake Forest, how are they able to do what they've done?
Bowden: I'm not familiar with what their admissions are ... I know their running back Josh Adams, we recruited him heavy heavy. Plus that redshirt thing he does- just about everybody they have does that. That year makes a big difference. He has held his feet to the fire and done that. He had two losing seasons a few years ago. He wouldn't get to try that philosophy here. That's paying off. It is a different Wake Forest. Some guys that may be under the radar, then you give them a redshirt year ... that makes a big difference.

Specifically where do you want to see Cullen improve in this game?
Bowden: Scrambling. He's second in efficiency and still over 60 percent. I know he throws a high-percentage throws but scrambling would be what I would say if you held my feet to the fire.

What about the environment at Groves Stadium? Is it still the same?
Bowden: That used to be the case. But that has changed. Plus it's a Thursday night game.

Are you pleased with the leadership on this team?
Bowden: Seems like they have done pretty good. We had a lot of these guys around last year. That's awfully important. You go out there and have a plan on Saturday but then the players are out there by themselves and it's how you execute that plan.

Did it seem to you that James Davis seemed to emerge out of his early-season slump against Maryland?
Bowden: I think as he's gotten older and more mature he has practice better. He came out last Saturday with a lot of energy and emotion. He practices like that. We've talked before if you can just get your offensive line to stay healthy, there's no doubt a back, as a lineman knows how to fit his blocks, he's going to get a higher comfort zone.

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