|Clemson Wilts In Texas Heat, 27-6|
|Clemson Athletic Communications - Saturday, September 18, 2004 11:41 PM||
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - It may be hot in Texas this time of year, but suddenly the heat is on in Clemson, too.
Texas A&M turned in an impressive, balanced performance Saturday night, rolling over visiting Clemson 27-6. The Aggies dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, rushing for over 300 yards on offense and limiting the Tigers to just 266 total yardage on the evening.
“We never could do anything on either side of the ball to change momentum,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. “We could do nothing offensively to create a spark and nothing defensively.“
The night was an especially rough one for Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who was battered and bruised all night by the big Texas A&M defensive line. Whitehurst was sacked three times, but spent much of the evening running away from the Aggie rush. He was intercepted three times of tipped balls - two off the hands of his own receivers and once after a defender's deflection.
Throw in a fumble suffered on a hit from behind, and Whitehurst (18-of-34, 183 yards) accounted for all four Tiger turnovers. The giveaways led directly to 14 Texas A&M points, and killed at least two other possible scoring opportunities.
“In our system when your quarterback is not real hot you are going to have a difficult time,” said Clemson offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain. “I don’t think Charlie played particularly well. He was a little off target today and a little high at times.”
Meanwhile, the Aggie offense looked like it had been running head coach Dennis Franchione's system for 15 years, not just 15 games.
Tailback Courtney Lewis ran for a game-high 171 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Reggie McNeal added 125 yards on the ground and threw for another 174, helping A&M improve to 2-1 on the season.
“We’ve got better personnel than to be giving up that much in the running game,” said Bowden. “We need to reevaluate what we are doing it looks like a little bit.”
Meanwhile, at 1-2, Clemson's season is at an early crossroads.
With road games upcoming at Florida State this Saturday and at Virginia on Thursday night, Oct. 7, Clemson's very season could be hanging in the balance before it's halfway completed. It was the FSU game which turned around the Tigers' season a year ago.
“They are going to be tested this week as far as their fight, their will and their desire,” said Bowden. ”Their manhood will be checked going down to Tallahassee and they will fired up after beating them last year and it can only get tougher going to Charlottesville and going to Miami and other places we have to go.”
Whether or not Bowden call pull the same rabbit out of the same hat one year later remains to be seen.
The Aggies scored the only points of the second half, getting a 3-yard touchdown run by Jason Carter in the third quarter and Todd Pegram's 36-yard field goal - his second of the night - midway through the fourth.
Clemson trailed 17-6 at the half thanks to its generosity.
Whitehurst was intercepted twice off tipped balls, both picks leading to touchdown runs by Lewis - one from a yard away and the other from 29 yards out.
Whitehurst was harassed, chased, beaten and battered in the first half by the Aggies' defensive front. Still, the Clemson junior brought his team back from a 14-0 deficit with a 15-yard scoring pass to tight end Ben Hall with 6:00 left in the half.
Kicker Stephen Furr missed the extra point.
The Aggies responded with a drive into Clemson territory which stalled at the 15, but Pegram delivered a 32-yard field goal for the 11-point advantage.
Whitehurst drove Clemson into Texas A&M territory as the half wound down, but with under 30 seconds to play he was stripped from behind on a pass attempt.
The Aggies recovered the fumble - the Tigers' third turnover of the half - near midfield and attempted to move the ball in the final seconds, but a final-play Hail Mary pass fell incomplete at the buzzer.