Bowden: No Mental Edge for Tigers Against Spurrier

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON --- When Steve Spurrier left Florida to takeover the Washington Redskins in 2002, no one was happier than Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden.

“He was glad when he left,” said Bobby’s son and Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden Monday night. “He was really glad when he left, because they were tough to beat.”

But Papa Bowden’s happiness is now his son’s misery. In his first season at South Carolina, Spurrier has made the Gamecocks just as tough. In just 10 games, he has turned USC into instant contenders in the SEC East, winning a school record five straight SEC games to close the conference part of their schedule.

Thanks to milestone wins against Tennessee and Florida, Spurrier has even changed the Gamecocks attitude, if Clemson had any mental edge in the state’s oldest rivalry, it has since been removed.

“They have beat Tennessee at Tennessee and beat Florida for the first time (since 1939),” said Bowden who is 5-1 against USC. “I would say the mental edge is gone. There is a new sheriff in town, and he is shooting different bullets.”

Bowden hopes his Tigers (6-4) can dodge some of those bullets when Clemson visits Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia Saturday at 7 p.m. To that, Bowden knows the Tigers will have to get started on offense, especially with the running game.

“We are going to have to be able to run the ball,” he said. “They like to put a bunch of guys up there. Against Arkansas, I saw a nine-man front.

“The minimum they will have is seven. If you have eight, they will have nine. You do have to run it some and when they do present the downfield opportunities you just have to take advantage of them.”

South Carolina (7-3) does gamble a lot with its defensive scheme and has given opposing offenses several chances to make plays.

“People just haven’t hit them,” Bowden said. “The farther you throw the ball downfield, the less your percentages are to complete them. They are going to say ‘Hey you might get one, but you aren’t going to get a bunch of them.’ And your not, statistics say your not.

“They are putting guys up there to stop you. So yeah, we have to run the ball, but we also have to be smart and not try to bang our heads with seven against nine or seven against eight.”

Rice almost a Tiger?
Freshman wide receiver Sidney Rice has made a name for himself this year at USC. The 6-foot-4, 191-pound freshman is averaging 5.67 receptions and 92.22 yards per game to lead the SEC.

Bowden told reporters that when Clemson was recruiting Rice, it came down to a decision between him and current Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly.

“It came down to him and Aaron Kelly and he has turned out to be a great player,” Bowden said. “He is already on fire so he will probably be double on fire (Saturday). We probably weren’t as aggressive as we should have. Boy, I hope he is not mad.”

Bowden said he is happy with the decision the Tigers made in Kelly, who caught another touchdown pass in last Saturday’s win over Florida State and now has 38 receptions for 471 yards.

“Who’s to say had Aaron gone there he couldn’t do what that guy has been doing with those opportunities,” Bowden said. “We have thrown Aaron two jump balls in the end zone and he has caught them both. I need to throw him the ball more when we’re down there.”

Injures. Bowden said quarterback Charlie Whitehurst’s position on playing will be decided the same way it was last week. Tuesday, could decide if Whitehurst plays or not against the Gamecocks, but Bowden doesn’t plan on releasing any information until game time Saturday.
Other injures: Offensive lineman Nathan Bennett has a sore calf, defensive end Gaines Adams has a bruised knee, but should be back in practice Tuesday and right tackle Marion Dukes has a strained lower back.

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