Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was a recent guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott to discuss the NCSU game. SportsTalk can be heard from 9 a.m.-12, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9 in upstate South Carolina.
Listen to the full interview here: Windows Media
DAN SCOTT: I would imagine if you were the type of person to play the "what if game" and allow that to drive you crazy, last week would have been a perfect scenario to do it. Not only do you lose a heartbreaker to Maryland and then just a few hours later, one of the things had you won that game you needed to happen, Wake Forest beating Boston College transpired, if you wanted to get lost in stuff like that, that would have been a perfect weekend to lose your mind I guess.
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, a reporter had asked me that afterwards, and about the time you use a lot of energy on the scenario you described, and all of a sudden, you forget a little bit about NC State and end up losing another one thinking about the one you just lost, so the old statement "don't let a loss beat you twice" you try to talk to your team about it and carry on. We've lost 2 games by 1 one point. We surely can't fault the effort of the players, or how hard they're playing and not giving up at the last minute, but again the "what if" does creep in, there's no doubt about it.
DAN SCOTT: When you look at what Maryland was able to do to you, you had some success running the ball, and I guess now we talk about success in different parameters than we did around here in the past, there are years here where 150 yards would have been…
COACH BOWDEN: We'd have killed for it.
DAN SCOTT: Yeah, exactly.
COACH BOWDEN: Three games total.
DAN SCOTT: Did they do anything similar to what Virginia Tech did to at least slow your running and not allow you to do some of the things that you wanted to do?
COACH BOWDEN: No, I think we ended up with 150 yard rushing, which like you say was below our, I think we were at 240 or something like that, but against a good defense, I know how they were ranked in the conference, a lot of that came off of West Virginia where they gave up 3 or 400 yards rushing, but again, and plus they've gotten better every week like a lot of teams have. You break one more run and you're up to 200, which is pretty good versus a top 25 team, so they really didn't do anything unusual, but as you've watched us play this year, when you start getting up to 250 to 240, you usually have a couple of long runs a game, we had 1 and 1 more would put us over 200, which is very good versus a top 25 team, so they didn't show us anything different. I thought the backs ran hard and the line blocked hard. We had 1 missed assignment, well it wasn't a missed assignment on a short yardage where a linebacker ran through, but the guy stepped a little incorrectly. He knew his assignment, he knew he had the guy, he just missed him. We felt like we were fairly productive, but not enough to convert one more 3rd down that would have given us 1 more drive to give us a point so it wasn't good enough, but surely better than what we had.
DAN SCOTT: It's hard to call 150 yard performance disappointing compared to what you have done. Expectations have changed. Its funny how perspective can change going back a few years isn't it?
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, it really is, because we'd talked about doing this so much, and again what we try to do as a staff is say gosh, where did we go wrong, but we try to look at the quality of the competition, I know Georgia Tech threw that a little bit out of whack, but I forget what we rushed for, it was a bunch. but a little bit different. You know, they are up field penetrators with a little bit smaller team, whereas Maryland still committed a few guys to the run, but they played a little bit differently. East, west, down the line, a little bit bigger bodies. They had more 300 pounders than what Georgia Tech did and Georgia Tech was one of those games that was kind of like Virginia Tech. I don't think Georgia Tech was that bad and I don't think we were that good in that game, just like the Virginia Tech game, I don't think we were that good or they were that bad, it's just one of those things where you hit on all cylinders in all 3 phases.
DAN SCOTT: The other side of whether you're getting enough rushing yardage now is whether you're getting enough production out of your quarterback, and for the first time this season, the first time in his career, Will Proctor is having to deal with some questions about his job performance, and we've talked a little bit here this week that he doesn't have in essence maybe the same comfort leave or the same cushions some other quarterbacks do, in other words, he doesn't get to learn all the stuff this year and come back and apply it next year. He's going through everything the first time and the only time.
COACH BOWDEN: You're right and sure, there are reads that he could make better just like mistakes made in other positions. Those are really magnified, especially when you play quality competition. As we brought out earlier, we've played 5 teams in the top 25 and we're the only team in the nation to do that. Nobody in the top 25 has played more than 3 so Will is going up against quality competition as a first year player, and sure, he's throwing for 60%, maybe a little bit over, but there are some progression reads, that with experience, if he were to come back next year as a starter, he'd probably be at 68 to 70% as a thrower, but he's having to learn on the run as a first year player, and I think he'll get better as the year goes, we've got 2 more games, but seems like here at the end, we've hit some really good teams and in Maryland and Virginia Tech, you would have had play pretty near perfect, which is hard to do as a first year player.
DAN SCOTT: How do you keep this little bit of a stumble from becoming a snowball in these last 2 games?
COACH BOWDEN: Million dollar question. We sure talk about what NC State is going to come in here, they have to win the game, they've won 3, 6 is Bowl eligible, they've got 3 games left they must win, there are some certain standards we'd like to achieve here, still left out for us, so in order to achieve those, it's a must win for us, so we're going to see whether their will to win 6 is greater than our will to reach the standard that we want.
DAN SCOTT: I broached this with you yesterday at practice a bit, but I think it's worth revisiting today though. NC State is as schizophrenic a program as there is in the country, they lose at home to Akron, they get drilled at Southern Miss, and then the next 2 weeks, they turn around and beat Boston College and FL State at home, and then their last 4 games, they've lost by a total of 21 points. You just never know which team you're going to get.
COACH BOWDEN: I remember you bringing that up yesterday, and like you said, that's one of the things we've surely talked to our team about because you might as well throw the Akron and Southern Miss out and totally prepare ourselves mentally to face the NC State team that beat Boston College who we lost to and beat FL State, and we're trying as best we can from a mental standpoint to say you better be prepared to face a team that's bringing its A-game plus, simply because the team has got more at stake than even in those games with a bowl eye on the game, so we expect the FL State and BC NC State team to show up and not the Akron and Southern Miss team.
DAN SCOTT: Inconsistencies aside, when you look at the NC State team on film from an athletic standpoint, what do you see?
COACH BOWDEN: The first thing that jumps out at you is their wide outs and backs. A very very consistent quarterback, I'd say their offensive line is good but not as strong as their backs and receivers. Of course, anytime you have skill like that, there is the potential for a big play and immediate points. Defensively, similar to Georgia Tech in the way they run. They've probably got a first round defensive tackle draft pick in Tyler, their secondary and linebackers are really active, they just don't have the experience like they had last year with those 3 first rounders and those other guys that they lost to the draft on defense.
DAN SCOTT: It's Military Appreciation Day, so a lot of pomp and circumstance before the game and at half-time as the team honors it's military heritage. I think this was brought up last week that this will be 11 consecutive weeks that you've played, the off-week comes before the 12 game against South Carolina. You've been doing this now, it will be 8 years here and 2 years at Tulane, you've had the off-week in different stages, is this a tougher regular season from a physical/mental standpoint because of where this off-week is that you've gone through?
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, since they've gone to a 12th game, I think the Big Ten, I've talked to some of those coaches, some of those have 11 straight, I think I talked to the coach at Ohio State, they had 11 straight with no open dates, so that might be the only conference as such, but I think the rest of the people around the country have pretty much had an open date by now, so we'll have played 11 straight games without an open date, maybe the first time in Clemson's history where they've played 11 straight games withno open date. After they've played 11, they've probably had an open date somewhere before they played the 11th, so kind of a unique situation and surely don't want to give the players the intention at all that they are tired or fatigued. We've talked about simply showing up the next week with as much energy as we can, but it is something that's probably never been experienced here and very little in college football since we've gone to a 12 game format, playing 11 straight with no open date.
DAN SCOTT: You've talked about having to make some adjustments and how you'd do things as far as practice times and things you do in practice to try to make sure you try to keep them fresh, at least as fresh as possible.
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, you have to go with a little less hitting with shoulder pads to let the upper bodies heal a little bit. You also have to take them off the field a little bit sooner as the season goes on, which we have tried to do and adjust our schedule as the season goes by spending a little less time on the field and a little less hitting. You still try to do some, we put the pads on Tuesday and did some hitting and took them off with just a little bit of protection on Wednesday and today so you try to make adjustments like that, and really, 11 straights has never been done so you're kind of guessing just a little bit on what the effect's going to be.
DAN SCOTT: Final question, the last 2 games you've played, you've scored a grand total of 1 touchdown, would it be easy then to say one of the keys to this week offensively getting off to a quick start and finding the in zone in one of your early possessions?
COACH BOWDEN: I don't know if its' so much of getting off to a quick start as it is when we do get to the red zone, we've got to score touchdowns, more than field goals. Georgia Tech was 7-0 at half time. We really didn't get off to a good start but we ended up I think winning 31 to 7, so I don't think it's getting off to a fast start so much as it is when we get down there, we've got to have more touchdowns than we do field goals and I think we sure have studied it hard and hopefully, we'll be more productive this week.
DAN SCOTT: See you tonight at the Ingles in Easley for the Tommy Bowden Show.