At his weekly press conference, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden reflected on last weeks’ disappointing four-point loss to N.C. State and looked ahead to next Saturday, when the Tigers travel to College Park and take on the surprising Maryland Terrapins.
Bowden said that the Tigers self-destructed on Saturday night with a combination of turnovers and a total of eleven penalties. Two of Clemson’s four turnovers came inside N.C. State territory and a personal foul call on a Wolfpack punt late in the first half led to a N.C. State touchdown.
“N.C. State is well coached and they played good, but I thought the reason we lost was some stuff on our side of the ball, mainly a couple of penalties and a couple of turnovers,” he said.
Despite throwing for two interceptions against the Wolfpack, Bowden praised the play of quarterback Woodrow Dantzler in his first start of the season. Dantzler finished the evening with 284-yards passing and two touchdowns as the Tiger offense racked up 31-points.
“Woody, for the first time ever starting in a completely new offense, threw for something like 50% (completion rate) and did pretty good. On one interception, the wide receiver just stopped and the other one was at the end of the game. So he really played pretty good,” Bowden said.
Bowden went on to say that given time, Dantzler will evolve into a very dangerous quarterback.
“I promise you, you watch Joe Hamilton at Georgia Tech as a four-year starter, and wasn’t (N.C. State quarterback) Barnette a four-year starter? You watch this clown (Dantzler). In around two more years, see if he’s not a smooth operator.”
It was suspected that true freshman Willie Simmons might see action against the Wolfpack Saturday night. Bowden said that the play of Dantzler never allowed the opportunity to insert the Simmons into the game.
“I know at some point Willie is going to play this year. But it’s like your guy’s out there pitching a no-hitter and he’s in a groove- you don’t want to sit him on the bench. There was no reason to break that momentum and that zone he (Dantzler) was in because he was playing pretty good,” said Bowden.
After jumping ahead of the Wolfpack 14-0 in the first quarter, the Tiger defense struggled to turn back the N.C. State attack, allowing the Wolfpack to amass 350-yards of offense and 35 points. Bowden said that he was particularly unhappy with Clemson’s inability to put pressure on N.C. State quarterback Jaime Barnette, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Tiger’s defensive line play.
“Right now, I’ve got a bunch of defensive linemen who look like Tarzan and play like Jane. They’ve got great potential because they look good. Right now, they’re not playing as good as they look,” he said.
After struggling to throughout the ‘90’s, Maryland has come out of the gate strong this season under head coach Ron Vanderlinden. The Terrapins are 4-1 with their only loss being to the hands of #9 Georgia Tech. Bowden said that Maryland’s improvement from last season’s 3-8 mark can partially be attributed to a significant reduction in turnovers.
“I think the biggest thing to look at is turnovers. They’re second in the nation in turnovers (give away- take away ratio). Most of the teams that are nationally ranked are going to be high in the nation in turnovers,” he said.
With freshman quarterback Calvin McCall running the offense, the Terrapins have kept things basic with a run-based attack with relatively simple passing reads for McCall.
“They’ve got a freshman quarterback, so they don’t ask him to do a lot of things other than don’t make mistakes and don’t turn the ball over. He’s done a good job of doing that,” Bowden said.
The Terrapin defense has been strong in its first five games, ranking among the nation’s elite in most major categories. Against Georgia Tech, the Terrapins gave up 49 points, but in their other four efforts, they’ve allowed a total of only 24.
“They’re solid. They don’t give up a lot of big plays,” said Bowden.
Bowden said that the Tigers will throw a few different looks at Maryland. As to exactly what that might entail, Tiger fans will just have to wait until game time. “You’ll probably see Woody used a little bit differently this week than last week. That’s all I’ll say,” Bowden said, laughing.
According to Bowden, the Tigers will need to execute flawlessly in order to leave College Park with a win.
“For us to win right now with where we are in the program, we’re going to have to play perfect. And we haven’t played perfect yet.”