CLEMSON - A sullen but determined Clemson team returned to work Monday evening, a mere two days after one of the most disheartening losses in the recent history of the program.
But despite the monumental collapse which led to the 28-24 loss Saturday to Georgia Tech at Death Valley, head coach Tommy Bowden spent most of Monday accentuating the positives achieved by the Tigers in the season's first two weeks. Sound psychological strategy, to be sure.
But in reality Bowden had little other choice.
"These guys have played really hard for two games, and we're further along than we were at this point last year," he said. "They're going to feel a little discouraged, which they should. If you've got any pride you're going to feel bad.
"But it won't do any good if I go out there and focus on the negative. They'll get enough of that based on what you all (the media) write.
Bowden's laundry list of positives through two games includes:
- An offensive line which has allowed just one sack in two games;
- The running game Saturday, which produced the two longest runs from scrimmage in Bowden's tenure at Clemson;
- The team's third quarter goal line stand to turn back a Georgia Tech scoring opportunity;
- Jad Dean's kickoffs into the end zone and Cole Chason's continued development as the team's punter;
- One blocked punt and one punt returned for a touchdown by his own special teams, none by the opposition.
"On top of all that we've played two games and we ain't quit," he said. "With nine games left to play and the things that usually happen at the end of the year - substitution problems, delay of game, 10 or 12 men on the field, we've had none of those. So I tried to tell them there's a lot to build on even though we lost the game."
Bowden said changes in playing time could be coming. More players at more positions will be evaluated this week.
"I don't think it will be replacing any starters, but it might," he said. "But there are some players at No. 2 on the depth chart who need more playing time."
Running back Duane Coleman did not practice Monday, though he was in a green jersey (limited contact). Bowden said Coleman's first test likely would come Wednesday, but stopped short of being optimistic about his return this Saturday at Texas A&M.
Defensive tackle Cory Groover's status (sprained ankle) also will be determined later in the week.
Bowden on his team developing leadership:
"We already have had some of it emerge through fall camp and the first game against Wake Forest. This will be another situation. This is leadership after a loss. We haven't had that surface yet. We'll find out what that's like this week."
Besides being upbeat, Bowden also was philosophical in the team meeting Monday.
Sources say that he reminded the team that despite how tough Saturday's loss was to the team, it pales in comparison to what his sister is going through at the moment - having lost her son and former husband of 22 years in a car accident last week.
True to form, Bowden never mentioned the effect the deaths had on him personally, the source said, again showing his ability to keep personal issues from affecting the team.