Anytime your team opens the season with a 15-yard penalty before running a single play, you have to wonder if it might be an omen.
Tommy Bowden’s debut as head coach at Clemson was marred by penalties, offensive ineffectiveness, and field goal kicking about as accurate as a Shaquille O’Neal free-throw.
None the less, the Tigers took Marshall’s best shots and still found themselves in position to win late in the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good team, a top 25 or 27 team, and what it came down to was that we should have won the game,” said Bowden.
Early on, it looked as if Clemson was headed for disaster. After running down the hill, the Tigers gathered on the giant paw at midfield. Officials penalized Clemson for unsportsman-like conduct and the Tigers were forced to kick off from their own 20, giving Marshall excellent field position to start the game.
“I know I’m not supposed to criticize the official and it is my team, but I’ve never been here before. I told the guy “I’ve never been here before, you’ve been here. What do they normally do?””
“If he would have told me that it was a problem here in the past then I would have said something. I said nothing to my team about jumping on the paw. . . I’ll know to bring it up next time,” Bowden said.
Once the game began, the Tiger offense struggled to get off.
“We had some penalties early. Illegal procedure penalties that were just lack of familiarity with the offense,” said Bowden. “It was just that it was the first time those guys have executed the new offense and I think that was obvious.”
Clemson got on track in the second half behind senior quarterback Brandon Streeter. Streeter led the Tigers to their only touchdown and put the team in position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
Bowden complimented Streeter’s performance after the game while criticizing the team’s inability to break off a big gain.
“Right now, he (Streeter) might be our best skilled athlete. When you put the ball in the wide out’s hands 27 times, somebody has got to make a big play.”
Clemson kickers finished the game 1-4, including three misses from inside 40 yards. Chris Cambell’s 34-yard kick with :10 left sailed wide and killed Clemson’s hopes of forcing overtime.
“You feel for the guys that missed the kicks, because that’s something we work extremely hard on. The snaps were good, the hold were good, we just missed the kicks,” Bowden said.
As for the future of the kicking position at Clemson, Bowden says it will be settled on the practice field as well as on the recruiting trail.
“You have another kick-off during practice to see who’s best then you’ve got to go out and sign one,” he said.