Bowden Reflects, Ready to Move Ahead

by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden's previous week began with tragedy and ended in disaster. It's no wonder he's looking ahead to the next seven days.

After enduring the news that his former brother-in-law and nephew were killed in an automobile accident the previous Sunday - and making a quick flight down to Florida for the Thursday funeral - Bowden watched his team implode in the final two minutes vs. Georgia Tech Saturday.

Ahead 24-14 and seemingly in control, Clemson instead bungled a series of plays which led to the Yellow Jackets' improbable 28-24 win at Death Valley.

Reflecting on the week during his Sunday teleconference, Bowden tried to put things into perspective.

"I talked to my father (Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden) this morning because he suffered similar loss (to Miami)," Bowden said. "(But) once you experience loss like we did in our family it does bring it into context. This (coaching) is important what we do. I don't want to in any way minimize what my job responsibilities are.

"But it reminds you what's most important. It's been tough."

Compounding his frustration was the way Clemson lost, failing to make any one of perhaps as many of seven or eight plays in the final two minutes which would have ended the game.

In fact, Bowden thought they had made one of those plays when Yusef Kelly - on third and inches - appeared to have a first down which would have sealed the game. As it happened, however, Kelly fumbled the ball.

Clemson recovered, but was still short of the first down.

Which led to the delay of game on fourth down. Which led to the bad snap on the punt by long snapper Geoff Rigsby. Which led to Reggie Ball's 11-yard touchdown pass to freshman Calvin Johnson for the game-winner with :11 to go.

"Yusef himself made the first down," Bowden said. "Unfortunately he didn't have the ball."

It was that kind of finish for the Tigers; unable to keep the ball when they had it, unable to get it back when they needed it.

But one thing became abundantly clear, both as it was unfolding and more so after Bowden reviewed the game tape:

There was plenty of blame to go around.

"Several individuals had a chance to win the game," he said. "The offense had a chance, the defense had a chance, the special teams had a chance...There were some calls by myself that could have been better.

"It was truly a team loss."


- Much of the postgame focus was on Rigsby and his errant snap, the first truly awful snap of his career. But, as Bowden said Sunday, the game should have been put away before then.

"Not to minimize the importance of the snap, but it never should have gotten there," he said. "Geoff will encounter other things in life tougher than this. He'll bounce back. He's a senior, and he's had too many good snaps."

- For the first time in his coaching tenure at Clemson, Bowden got the home runs he was looking for at the running back position.

Tailback Reggie Merriweather ripped off the longest run for a tailback under Bowden, a 62-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Later in the period, Kyle Browning followed up with a 54-yarder of his own, also for a score, good enough for the second longest under Bowden.

"Both are going to get more time. They deserve it," Bowden said. "I should have played them more in the first game. Yusef will probably start the game because he's a senior, but right now in effect I'd say we have three starters - unless one of them separates from the others."

- There was no immediate word on the status of defensive lineman Cory Groover, according to Sports Information Director Tim Bourret. Groover left Saturday's game in the first half with a sprained ankle and did not return.

- Since Bowden took over at Clemson, his teams are 9-1 in games following a loss by a touchdown or less.

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