CLEMSON -- It would be easy for Clemson to overlook Wake Forest. Not like
you overlook a snake in the leaves. Maybe like you would overlook your
little brother when he's about to kick you in the shin.
Clemson has no reason to think Wake Forest can bring it to its knees
Saturday. There's the 0-2 record - losses to North Carolina and Division
I-AA Appalachian State. There's the history - two winning seasons in the
last 11 years. There's the image as a small private school (just 3,850
attend Wake Forest) and football weakling. Then there's the point spread
placed on the game by the bookmakers - 32 points.
Nothing is on Wake Forest's side except a history of being pesky and
For the past decade, Wake Forest has had as much to do with the fortunes of
Clemson's head coaches as any other team. Consecutive losses to Wake Forest
was Ken Hatfield's undoing as much as his unwillingness to belly up to the
bar in the Esso Club. A 3-8 season was bad enough for Tommy West, but a loss
to Wake Forest started the buzzards circling over Death Valley in 1998. If
current coach Tommy Bowden is smart, he'll stay up late into the night
worrying about the Demon Deacons every time he has to play them.
"Wake Forest probably played us better last year than anybody," he said.
"They really made it difficult for us to execute our offense and they did
not give us any big plays. I would think that they will run a very similar
scheme on defense to what they ran last year. They were a very good team
last season and I expect them to play extremely hard and do some of same
things that had success against us last season."
Sounds like Bowden has the right attitude. Maybe there's a reason.
Bowden was 16 years old when his father's West Virginia team had a 35-8
halftime lead against Pittsburgh and went on to lose 36-35 in 1970.
All West Virginia had to do was run some time off the clock in the second
half. Pitt, however, had scoring drives of 58, 68, 70 and 70 yards to erase
the big lead. West Virginia ran just 15 second-half plays to Pitt's 61.
With 55 seconds left in the game a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dave Havern to
Bill Picconis gave Pitt the win.
Bobby Bowden still remembers it as his darkest day as a head coach. He was
hung in effigy on the West Virginia campus (not the last time that would
happen to him at West Virginia). He received death threats and there were
moving vans at his house.
If there's a bright side, 30 years later Tommy Bowden still remembers