Inspired, Aggressive Tigers Rout Middle Tennessee


by - Correspondent -
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Duane Coleman breaks the tackle and runs for a 34-yard touchdown.

CLEMSON - Finally.


On the day when Clemson honored its late play-by-play voice Jim Phillips, who unexpectedly died earlier in the week at age 69, Tommy Bowden unleashed his fleet of wide receivers on an unsuspecting Middle Tennessee secondary in a display which almost resembled Air Force jets on an honorary fly-by.


The final score was 37-14, but long after those numbers are forgotten two memories will remain:


That of Jim Phillips; and the possibility that Saturday was the day the Tigers found an identity.


"I think our seniors did a good job of keeping us together," Bowden said. "This was not a conference team, not a team we knew a lot about, but our seniors did a good job of responding mentally. We've gotten a little better every week, which is all you can ask the team to do."


Using a pass-first mentality, Clemson's offense was in high-gear from the opening gun. The Tigers (2-1) scored on four of their first five possessions, riding the strong arm of redshirt sophomore Charlie Whitehurst and his almost unerring accuracy.


Whitehurst completed 16 of his first 18 passes - all in the first half - for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 23-of-28 for 298 yards and four touchdowns.


"I thought the line did a good job protecting," Bowden said. "Charlie threw the ball well. Our offensive staff...did a good job with the preparation of the offense, but execution is the key when the play is called."


Twelve of the receptions and 133 of the yards went to junior receiver Airese Currie, who broke the team single-game record for catches and appears to be establishing himself as Whitehurst's go-to guy.


Currie's four-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was his second in as many games, and put the Tigers firmly in control, 34-7.


Currie had plenty of help from his mates; Derrick Hamilton had four catches for 78 yards, including touchdown receptions of 29 and 19 yards. Kevin Youngblood chipped in 5 receptions for 49 yards.


"Currie can fly," said MTSU head coach Andy McCollum. "And then you look around and you've got a 6-foot-5 (Youngblood) and a 6-5 (Hamilton). We just don't have enough big corners."


More importantly, the success in the passing game opened up heretofore unseen success from Clemson running backs. Sophomores Kyle Browning (11 carries, 54 yards) and Duane Coleman (9-44) led a rushing attack which totaled 183 yards on the afternoon.


Coleman also turned a simple swing pass into a 34-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, shaking a would-be tackler and tight-roping down the right sideline to put the Tigers ahead 13-0.


And then there was Whitehurst who, operating out of the shotgun, added a new dimension to his game with 50 yards on nine carries.


"Their offense was clicking today," McCollum said. "But it doesn't start clicking until the guys up front start clicking, and that makes it easier on their skill players."


Meanwhile, the Clemson defense spent much of the afternoon in bend-but-don't-break mode.


The Blue Raiders (0-3) found quite a bit of real estate running straight at Clemson's defensive line, finishing with 194 yards and an average of 5.1 yards per carry. But they only were able to find paydirt twice - once in each half - as the Tigers stiffened at just the right time for most of the evening.


All in all it was an impressive victory on an emotional night for everyone involved, and Bowden said the fans played a large role in the outcome.


"They keep showing up, cheering and motivating the team," he said. "It really means a lot when the team comes out and the fans are there. I appreciate their patience (because) this team is continuing to improve from week to week."


Drive Chart


FIRST QUARTER

Clemson 6, MTSU 0

Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 80 yards in 1:44.

Scoring Play: Charlie Whitehurst's 29-yard pass to Derrick Hamilton (PAT failed) at 11:37.

Key Play: Kyle Browning's 10-yard run to the MTSU 29 on second-and-9.



SECOND QUARTER

Clemson 13, MTSU 0

Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 88 yards in 4:29.

Scoring Play: Whitehurst's 34-yard swing pass to Duane Coleman at 13:57.

Key Play: Harrell's 2-yard run to the MTSU 45 on third-and-inches.



Clemson 13, MTSU 7

Scoring Drive: 10 plays, 81 yards in 4:27.

Scoring Play: Eugene Gross' 4-yard run at 9:30.

Key Play: Hines' 22-yard pass to Holt to the Clemson 8.



Clemson 20, MTSU 7

Scoring Drive: 9 plays, 69 yards in 4:01.

Scoring Play: Chad Jasmin's 3-yard run at 5:29.

Key Play: Whitehurst's 12-yard keeper to the MTSU 7.



Clemson 27, MTSU 7

Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 73 yards in 3:03.

Scoring Play: Whitehursts 19-yard pass to Hamilton at :46.

Key Play: On second and 20 from his own 17, Whitehurst completes 24-yards to Hamilton.



THIRD QUARTER

Clemson 34, MTSU 7

Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards in 5:05.

Scoring Play: Whitehurst's 4-yard pass to Currie at 1:26.

Key Play: Whitehurst's 19-yard pass to Currie to the MTSU 28.



FOURTH QUARTER

Clemsn 34, MTSU 14

Scoring Drive: 10 plays, 78 yards in 2:23.

Scoring Play: Davis' 1-yard plunge at 14:03.

Key Play: Davis' 30-yard run to the CU 35.



Clemson 37, MTSU 14

Scoring Drive: 9 plays, 56 yards in 4:29.

Scoring Play: Aaron Hunt's 42-yard field goal at 9:34.

Key Play: Whitehurst's 28-yard pass to Currie to the CU 47.


Middle Tenn         0  7  0  7-14
Clemson             6 21  7  3-37

                             MTSU    Clem
First downs                    21      31
Rushes-yards               38-194  44-183
Passing                       170     298
Comp-Att-Int              15-26-1 23-28-0
Return Yards                    4      13
Punts-Avg.                 5-39.8  3-35.7
Fumbles-Lost                  0-0     1-0
Penalties-Yards              8-75    4-20
Time of Possession          26:30   33:30

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING-Middle Tennessee, Calloway 13-62, Davis 6-61, Gross 8-37, German
5-29, Harris 1-4, Hines 5-1. Clemson, Browning 11-53, Whitehurst 9-41, Coleman
9-38, Merriweather 8-27, Elliott 1-10, Jasmin 3-10, Harrell 2-4, Stuckey 1-0.

PASSING-Middle Tennessee, Hines 10-15-0, Harris 2-7-1, Marks 3-4-0. Clemson,
Whitehurst 23-28-0.

RECEIVING-Middle Tennessee, Wright 4-36, Holt 3-42, Holiday 2-28, Edmiston
2-20, Williams 2-19, Calloway 1-14, Alsup 1-11. Clemson, Currie 12-133,
Youngblood 5-49, Hamilton 4-78, Coleman 1-34, Williamson 1-4.

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