Tigers Running Attack Holding Its Own
Chad Jasmin got his first start of the season in Saturday's 40-7 victory over Duke.
CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden isn't interested in how Clemson runs the football. Just as long as they run it.
After starting the year in the traditional I-formation, attempting to run the tailback behind both a fullback and the offensive line, the Tigers' rushing attack has become much more flexible. Whether it's running out of the shotgun with the tailback, or the occasional use of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst on a keeper, Clemson has been able to run effectively more often than not over the last two months.
And they've done it with a unique mix of running backs - the slashing Duane Coleman, who seems to get better every week; bullish Chad Jasmin, who got his first start of the season in Saturday's 40-7 victory over Duke; speedster Kyle Browning as a change-of-pace; even the somewhat forgotten Yusef Kelly, who has proven his worth even in limited playing time so far this year.
What it amounts to most of the time is exactly what transpired Saturday. By rushing for 142 net yards, Clemson's running game was just good enough to offset another big passing afternoon by Whitehurst.
"There are different ways to run the ball to keep the defense off balance," Bowden said during his Sunday teleconference. "We tried to be patient early because we were doing something (I-formation) we hadn't done a whole bunch of (in the past).
"We had to use our imagination and creativity, and maybe the best way to do it is the way we're doing it now."
The slow, steady improvement with the run may be another sign that Bowden's team is maturing.
Given an opportunity to fold up for good after being humiliated by Wake Forest, the Tigers instead routed then No. 3 Florida State before a national television audience. Then, with that win behind them and arch-rival South Carolina looming next week, Clemson avoided what would have been a natural spot for a letdown and pounded Duke Saturday in Death Valley.
Is Clemson peaking?
It's hard to say. But Bowden likes the way his team has responded to adversity in recent weeks.
"I think the results are kind of an indication of whether you have or haven't (matured)," he said. "The way the team responded after Wake Forest against a very talented opponent (FSU)...After the Florida State win, they kept the momentum going from that to (playing Duke) a week before the South Carolina game.
"We've shown that kind of maturity the last two weeks."
Other Notes From Sunday
*Top Tacklers from Saturday's game with Duke. Donnell Washington 8,
John Leake 7, Travis Pugh 6, Leroy Hill 6, Anthony Waters 6, Jamaal
Fudge 6. Washington was first Clemson defensive lineman to lead the
Tigers in tackles in a game since 1997 at South Carolina when Raymond
White led the Tigers with nine.
*No new injuries reported. It should be noted that Ben Hall did not
play in Saturday's game due to a shoulder injury. He practiced last
week, but did not go through any contact work on Tuesday or
Wednesday. He could have played if needed, but coaches decided to
hold him out so he could be 100 percent for South Carolina. Airese
Currie also did not play against Duke, but should be ready for South
*Justin Miller became the second player in Clemson history to score a
touchdown on a kickoff return and a punt return over the course of
his career. He joins Bobby Gage who had one of each during his
career that ran from 1945-48.
*Clemson is now 18th in the nation in passing offense with a 285.4
yards per game average, and 23rd in pass defense, allowing just 191.6
yards per game. Clemson is also second in the nation in kickoff
returns and tied for sixth in fewest fumbles (with South Carolina)
with five lost fumbles this year.
*Individually, Charlie Whitehurst is 14th in the nation in total
offense, Aaron Hunt is 20th in field goals per game, Derrick Hamilton
is 25th in all-purpose running yards per game, Kevin Youngblood is
27th in receptions per game.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.