Dogs' defense shuts out Clemson in Death Valley

Clemson ran 61 plays and not one of them ended with a Tiger and the ball in the end zone. The Tigers were stunned 30-0 Saturday afternoon at home by Georgia for the first shutout suffered by Tommy Bowden as a head coach.

CLEMSON, S.C. - Word association that doesn't compute in the college football world:

"Bowden" and "shutout."

Clemson ran 61 plays and not one of them ended with a Tiger and the ball in the end zone. The Tigers were stunned 30-0 Saturday afternoon at home by Georgia for the first shutout suffered by Tommy Bowden as a head coach.

The Bulldogs? Not surprised in the least.

"With the team we've got and the coaches we have here," said senior cornerback Bruce Thornton, "we can accomplish anything."

Part of Saturday's accomplishment was embarrassing Clemson at home on regional TV.

The Tigers were blanked for the first time since a 48-0 whipping by Florida State in Tallahassee in 1998. Earlier that season, Virginia Tech took a 37-0 win in Clemson.

"I thought we'd be a little more productive offensively," understated Bowden. "We had some chances early on in the fourth quarter but couldn't capitalize."

The previous low for a Bowden team at Clemson was three points two years ago in falling 38-3 at home to North Carolina. In Bowden's six previous seasons as a head coach, including two at Tulane, he's watched his team produce less than 10 points only four times.

"We expect to get a shutout," said junior defensive end David Pollack, who had an interception and four tackles. "That's what our goal is."

The numbers tell part of the story:

• Clemson had 199 yards total offense. Last year's low figure was 233 against Georgia.

• Four different Bulldogs - including backup quarterback D.J. Shockley - ran for more yards than Clemson did as a team. In fact, redshirt freshman Michael Cooper had more yards nullified on one called-back touchdown run of 37 than the Tigers managed.

• Clemson's longest run from scrimmage was an 11-yard scramble by quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

"The coaching staff since I've been here has been phenomenal in putting us in position to make plays," said Pollack.

Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder said the success wasn't as complicated as people want to make it.

"We have good players. We get a player injured, we've got a good play. We had a safety, blew his knee out, and we put a linebacker back at safety.

"A lot of people aren't that fortunate to have a player like him. At Georgia, we've got good players."

Georgia substituted constantly to start the game.

By the time Clemson had run off 14 plays, 11 different Bulldogs had been credited with a tackle. Pollack had a batted down pass, and Marcus Jackson had recovered a fumble.

Individual stats weren't overwhelming because the Bulldogs played so many on defense.

The secondary used about seven different players, and the Bulldogs rotated four at defensive tackle most of the game.

Derrick White, a sophomore linebacker making his first start at middle linebacker, was credited with only four tackles but was around the ball all afternoon. Arnold Harrison in his first start at linebacker added a caused fumble and pass deflection to go with three tackles.

Tra Battle, a true freshman walk-on from Collins Hill - by way of Mary Persons High - was in the game on the second play and made a tackle at the time, the first of three.

Explained middle linebacker Odell Thurman: "Hustling to the ball. That's what Coach talks about every day. 'You get off the ground and you go get the ball.'

"Hustle makes up for a lot of stuff."

What impressed Thornton the most was Georgia's ability to stop Clemson once it got within sniffing distance of the end zone.

Thurman was big in the shadows of the goal posts.

"As the mike (middle) linebacker, you have to get your boys pumped up," he said. "Down in the red zone, we fight hard every day. Even in practice. We don't even want our offense to score."

Coach Mark Richt is an offensive guy, but he raved about those on the other side.

"The defense played tremendous, considering the losses that we had through injury and suspension," he said. "They came out fighting and did a great job. Any time that Clemson got close to the goal line, they rose up and they stopped 'em."

And the why was clear to redshirt freshman tackle Ray Gant.

"All the way down to the goal line, we never gave up," he said. "That's what Georgia's known for. We came out here and played Georgia football."

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