CLEMSON - One reason Clemson has opened the 2005 season with two straight victories has to do with turnovers. Or, more accurately, the lack of them.
The Tigers, who early in 2004 found themselves last in the nation in turnover margin, have yet to give away the ball in two games, including Saturday's 28-24 comeback win at Maryland. Conversely, Clemson's defense has three takeaways.
Head coach Tommy Bowden believes the two early wins are directly related to the turnover stats.
"The key to last season, early on, was that we led the nation in turnovers. We stopped having them and then won five of six," he said in his regular Sunday teleconference. "In the two games we've played (Texas) A&M committed one and lost the game, and I believe Maryland turned it over twice. So I hope we've learned a valuable lesson."
The close victories have had the expected positive effect on the team, and has seen Clemson move to No. 20 in the newest Associated Press poll released on Sunday. The Tigers also debuted in the Coaches Poll at No. 23.
But besides the recognition it gets for his players, Bowden doesn't put much stock in early rankings.
"I'm glad the players get rewarded for hard work, but I hope they understand there are still nine games to go," Bowden said. "We won't go anywhere 2-9. Think Miami will occupy their mind more than being ranked 20th. I hope it does."
The one thing a pair of close victories has done, on the other hand, is keep Clemson's younger players mind frame in a positive mode.
"You preach to them about a 60 minute ball game. You don't know which play will make a difference, so play them all hard," Bowden said. "As much as most coaches talk that, we've had success here. Six of last eight wins have come down to the wire, so our players don't have mental block about panicking behind in the fourth quarter.
"With youth comes that kind of naive enthusiasm. For them, it's 'Let's go have fun, do best we can and maybe something good will happen.' They haven't experienced the bad things that have happened late in games. There's nothing in the computer, and I think that's good as opposed to bad."
Bowden praised the play of wide receiver Curtis Baham, who had two touchdown receptions, and the wideouts as a group for their downfield blocking. He also singled out quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and offensive lineman Nathan Bennett for their play.
Defensively, the coach's film breakdown showed Anthony Waters led the defense with 14 tackles, while Nick Watkins had 13 - six on special teams.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. 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.