Celebrate Miami, Be Wary of Duke


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - If there's a downside to knocking off the No. 10 team in the country on the road, it's the fact that night games leave very little time for celebration.


But if that's the only damper on Clemson's 24-17 overtime win over Miami at the Orange Bowl Saturday night, head coach Tommy Bowden and his crew will take it. After all, wins like that don't come along very often.


Consider:


- Since 1985, Miami was 174-2 when leading after three quarters;


- Since 1983, Miami was 174-15 when scoring first;


- Miami had won 18 consecutive night games in the Orange Bowl dating to a 27-20 overtime loss to Virginia Tech in 1998;


- Miami had been 103-8 against unranked opponents since 1990;


- Clemson had lost 10 straight games in the state of Florida dating to a victory over Illinois in the 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl.


All told, it made for a pleasant - if not quiet - plane ride home.


"They (players) were a little rambunctious on the bus ride to the airport," Bowden said during his regular Sunday teleconference. "Once you get on the plane and you get through eating, it's 2:30 or 3 a.m. It gets real quiet."


The players will have had at least an extra day to reflect on their fourth consecutive victory, a win which now has Clemson on the cusp of bowl eligibility (5-4) and - with a win a Duke this week - an unlikely winning record inside the ACC.


But Bowden and his staff were working on the Duke game plan as early as 12:30 p.m. Sunday. This after watching and grading the Miami game film, getting another look at the final two quarters from Saturday - what he agreed was the team's best half of football this season.


"Defensively our front stopped the run better and got pressure on (Miami quarterback Brock) Berlin," said Bowden. "We were enough in his face and around his feet that he wasn't as accurate as he normally is.


"On offense we're getting closer. Miami's not been up to par defensively the last few weeks, but you still have to go out there and produce. We missed some field goals and dropped a couple of deep balls. But we're getting close."


The single most important factor in the offense's quasi-resurrection has been the running of Reggie Merriweather.


Two weeks ago Bowden said Merriweather was beginning to distance himself from the other backs because of performance. Saturday, rushing for 114 yards on 21 carries and scoring three touchdowns, Merriweather took a choke hold on the starting tailback slot.


"He's come to the forefront as the guy who needs the ball in critical situations," Bowden said. "He's capitalized on an opportunity..."


Now the team's attention must not only turn toward Duke, but the Tigers also must be wary of the old between-big-opponents letdown.


The Miami game, obviously, had Clemson's attention. So will the Nov. 20 game at home vs. bitter rival South Carolina. But in between the Tigers travel to Duke, where the atmosphere sometimes more resembles a physics class than a football game.


"We'll have some fans up there, but it's a much different environment," Bowden said. "Sure it will be in the paper once or twice this week. I'll tell them know more than once or twice."

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