CLEMSON, SC - One day after Rod Gardner publicly proclaimed Clemson should run up the score Saturday against The Citadel, Tommy Bowden’s message was jovial, but at the same time unmistakably clear:
Learn what to say - and more importantly what not to say - to the media.
“I think it’s more being manipulated by ya’ll. You (the media) do a good job,” Bowden said. “You ask the questions, then you write the headlines (saying) the guy has no respect (for The Citadel), but he didn’t say that. You could sit there and do what coach (Lou) Holtz does and take them away from the press, but I don’t want to do that.
“They have to learn that ya’ll are manipulative in how you ask questions...repeatedly ask them. So I warn them ‘this is what you should say.’ But some of ya’ll are so persistent in repeatedly asking the question. Then you write it in the most deceiving manner. But that’s something they need to learn by themselves. I could put them off limits, but I’m not going to do that.”
Gardner, speaking Tuesday at the first of Clemson’s regular weekly press conferences, said Clemson needed to put 50 or 60 points on the board.
“We’re going to try to run up the score. It’s the first game and we really need to go out there and run the table so the nation sees the score on TV and says Clemson’s for real,” he said.
But Gardner’s arm hardly was twisted into making the comments. The affable senior wide receiver rarely is at a loss for words, and has become a media favorite since bursting onto the scene and flourishing in Bowden’s offense last season.
And when a reporter remarked to Bowden that often times just saying hello to Gardner can elicit 10 minutes of interview material, the second-year coach laughed and nodded knowingly.
“What they say is what they say. You just try to educate them,” Bowden said. “It’s not a big issue. Guys have to learn that. But I prefer humility. I prefer we talk about ‘us’ and ‘we,’ and then how hard we’re working and how much we respect the other team.
“I don’t think he used the word ‘disrespect’, but that was the headlines today. That’s what I mean by being manipulative.”
The obvious concern is giving the opposition bulletin board material. Coaches look for any edge, any way to get a team motivated to play on Saturdays.
Statements like Gardner’s surely will be such fodder for The Citadel, Bowden said.
“We use them. I’m sure everybody else does, too,” he said. “All you want is one little thing. That’s all you want. We’ve been pretty good until (Gardner’s statement).”
- Despite widespread criticism over playing The Citadel Saturday - instead of Texas A&M, who was the original opponent - Bowden continues to insist the game is good for both the Bulldogs and the Tigers.
“I wouldn’t schedule one if it hurt us,” he said. “At this point and time in the program, being here a year-and-a-half, it’s not a negative. It’s a positive for us and a positive for them. In three more years, if the ratings were such where that hurts, I wouldn’t do it. I’m more interested in my life than his, or my house payment than his.”
- Center Kyle Young, back at practice after missing much of the preseason with a stress fracture in his foot, will start Saturday, which is good news for the cohesiveness of the offensive line.
“That’s a team within a team,” Bowden said. “One call made by a center directs everybody. It directs everybody, pass protection and run blocks. The continuity up there is real important.”
- Redshirt freshman Jermyn Chester has been so impressive since being switched back to guard from center last week that he may get the starting assignment over Will Merritt Saturday. Offensive line coach Ron West said the decision could be made today.
- The race for starting kicker between freshman Aaron Hunt and sophomore Tony Lazzara is so tight, Bowden said, that a decision may not be made until game day.
- Bowden continued to lament the lack of the fabled South Carolina summer heat.
“I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be like Saturday,” he said. “That’s why I’d just as soon play at 1 p.m. when it’s hot. (At 6 p.m.) there’s a chance of now sun. It could be cool. That wouldn’t be good at all.”
Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.