Davis Presses On

CLEMSON - All James Davis could do was laugh Monday morning when a reporter asked him if his only drive left for the 2008 season was Clemson's career rushing record.

"I kind of laugh at it because it is kind of funny," the senior said. "You can't believe you are in this situation. You really have nothing else to do, but try to keep playing and try to find the positive in this situation."

For Davis, laughter is his way to try and hide the pain of a season that started with so much promise, but is likely to end with so much sorrow. The once preseason pick to win the ACC, Clemson is now officially eliminated from the championship race thanks to its loss to Florida State, and is now left with the reality it has to win its remaining three games to qualify for a bowl game.

"It has been real tough, but you still have to keep fighting," Davis said. "Probably the only good part left is to try and have a winning season. That's what we have to look forward too.

"You have the South Carolina game and a lot of Clemson fans still look forward to that game. No matter what happens in the season, a lot of people look forward to that game."

This wasn't the type of season Davis expected when he returned from his brief flirtation with the NFL Draft last January. The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 ACC) were loaded with talent and were being talked about as the darling of the ACC.

Personally, Davis was looking forward to finally being on a championship team, while also looking forward to the possibility of rewriting the Clemson record books. He entered the season needing just 836 yards to become the school's all-time leader. He was also looking to set the school's all-time total touchdown mark, which currently stands at 50.

But that kind of thinking started to change once the season kicked off.

"I haven't really looked at that because we haven't really run the ball," Davis laughed. "We don't run the ball as much as we probably would like to because we are behind in a lot of games so we have to pass the ball.

"It is kind of funny when I look at it."

What isn't funny is that Davis needs just 311 yards to set a new rushing record and 7 touchdowns to set the touchdown record – numbers that in any normal year would seem easy to achieve. But this year isn't normal.

The Tigers are averaging just 118.4 yards a game running the football, including 104.2 in ACC games. Davis is averaging just 58.4 yards per game and isn't even in the ACC's top 10 in total rushing yards or scoring.

"Me and C.J. (Spiller) should probably be at the top or amongst those guys, but every coach has their way of using their players and this is the way we use our players," Davis said.

In a way, Davis has appeared to accept the fact his role has been reduced because of the Tigers' deficiencies on the offensive line. But new offensive coordinator Billy Napier says that's not necessarily true.

He says they start every game plan with the thought about how they are going to run the football.

"We are going to continue to hand it off to number one and number twenty-eight, I can promise you that," Napier said. "Our front people, they are young, we have some young players, but also we have some veteran players. It is a mix where if we have that same lineup that we had in the past, than we can be pretty productive, but James doesn't have the benefit of playing behind those.

"We had a very veteran group for his last two seasons. James has proven to be one of the best running back in the country when he has opportunities and he will play at the next level and all that. There is no question, when given the opportunity he can do some things with it."

And nobody feels worse for Davis and the rest of the seniors than their teammates.

"I love these seniors to death," tight end Michael Palmer said. "This isn't how James, Cullen (Harper), Aaron (Kelly), guys that tested the NFL, you know, and came back for their senior season, I know this isn't the way they dreamed the season going and their particular numbers and everything.

"I love those guys too death. That kind of goes back to the team. We are out there playing for each other and this isn't how I wanted them to go out."

Not worried about his own personal goals anymore, Davis says his focus is to make sure the team doesn't give up and cash it in. He would love nothing more than to play one more game after the South Carolina game.

He said the team is down right now, and he knows some guys, who haven't been in this situation, don't know what to do.

"The concern is you want to look at the seniors and see if they want to keep fighting and to keep going," he said. "Those guys are the ones who can tank because a lot of guys don't have anywhere to go after this.

"They are probably going to get jobs and whatever, and get on with their lives… Right now, it is a difficult situation. You definitely have to keep working harder and keep trying to push the guys."

And if that doesn't work, than all he can do is laugh.

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