Clemson Now Turns Its Attention to Yellow Jackets

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CLEMSON — Clemson coach Tommy Bowden might have given his players the next few days off to rest before next Saturday’s showdown with No. 13 Georgia Tech at Death Valley, but he and the coaching staff will work diligently through the weekend trying to figure out the hex the Yellow Jackets have had on the Tigers the last two seasons.

Two years ago, a bad snap in punt formation setup Calvin Johnson’s game winning score with 11 seconds to go to beat Clemson 28-24. Clemson had leads of 17-7 and 24-14 in the fourth quarter, but it was unable to hang on to get the win.

Last year, the Tigers held Tech to 308 total yards, while running back Reggie Merriweather rushed for 128 yards. But three trips into the redzone added up to three Jad Dean field goals, while the Yellow Jackets got a P.J. Daniels three-yard run with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter to topple the Tigers 10-9.

“I remember we moved the ball pretty well and we were running well, but we had four turnovers and several penalties inside the redzone that cost us,” Bowden said.

One of those penalties was an illegal procedure penalty, which nullified a touchdown pass in the second quarter. Clemson had 325 total yards.

“When we get a chance to score we have to do it then because yards are going to be tough to come by.”
That’s because Georgia Tech (5-1, 3-0 ACC) is giving up just 276.5 yards a game of total offense and just 72.5 on the ground.

“All eleven of their players, not just the front seven, are all good tacklers,” Bowden said. “Charlie Weis over at Notre Dame is supposed to be the top offensive mind in college football, but he (defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta) had him confused.
“He does a great job over there. They are very complicated in their scheme.”

Johnson also gives Bowden and his staff something else to worry about. The junior wideout welcomed himself to the college football world with a four-touchdown performance at Death Valley in ’04. This year, the media’s preseason pick for ACC Player of the Year honors, leads the conference with 35 receptions for 559 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He has such good size and a big body,” Bowden said. “He also seems to be pretty well grounded from what I have heard and seen on the shots of him from the sidelines. He is a good kid.

“He seems to have the total package.”

So how do the Tigers shut Johnson down?

“The best thing to do is to just do the same thing we did last year,” Bowden said. “I don’t know really what that was you will have to ask Vic (Koenning), but I know that it worked.”

What the No. 12 Tigers (6-1, 3-1) did have was “cat” safety Michael Hamlin spying on the 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior, limiting him to four catches for 46 yards. Hamlin also had an interception when he out jumped Johnson for a Reggie Ball aerial.

Kicking woes. Bowden said did review the extra point that was deflected in Thursday night’s 63-9 win over Temple and said it was deflected as a result of breakdowns in protection.

“The rest of (Jad Dean’s) extra points looked pretty good,” he said.
However, Bowden isn’t pleased with the effort of his kick return team. Clemson gave up 240 yards on nine returns to Temple, including 73- and 53-yard returns.

“We are going to keep working on it, but right now we are not very good at it,” Bowden said. “I’m disappointed in myself for not getting it corrected.”

Bowden said part of the blame does belong to Dean too, which he said isn’t kicking the ball off as well as he has had in the past.

“He is not kicking off very good,” he said. “I watch him in practice and he kicks it great in practice, and he kicks it great in pregame too. Most of them do.”

Dean says part of his problems might be due to spending so much time working on field goals, which he has had issues with since the Boston College game.

“Over my career it has been right around half (of the time kicks are touchbacks). Where this year, I’m not sure. Maybe its because of all the issues with field goals that maybe I have kicked too much during the week. My legs are a little tired, but that is something I just have to work on.”
Bowden said he would expect those struggles from a younger kicker, but not a senior.

“If it was young guy, maybe. But not a senior,” he said.
Dean says he is trying his best.

“He says the more touchbacks I can get the better,” Dean said. “I’m trying, but it is just one of those things we are going to have to work through. Maybe it because I’m having to put so much effort into field goals and not enough on kickoffs.
“Maybe if field goals were not going like that maybe I can put more time into (kickoffs).”

Touchdown machine. Running back James Davis scored three touchdowns Thursday night and now has 13 for the season – five off Travis Zachery’s record of 18 from the 2000 season.

His 64-yard second quarter touchdown run was his second of the year from that distance, but it still isn’t longer than running mate C.J. Spiller’s 72-yard run, which he had in last week’s win over Wake Forest.

“We talked about that on the sideline,” Davis said. “He told me ‘You still haven’t beat my 72-yarder.’ I kind of laughed it off, but it is coming for me.”

Davis, who is averaging 106.4 yards a game to lead the ACC, said he is still up on Spiller in total touchdowns.

“When he scored two touchdowns, I knew I had to get another one because we were scoring every time we got in the game,” Davis said. “I was kind of mad on one of those series because I fell when trying to cutback and would have scored. I thought coach was going to take me out of the game, but he put me back in and I was able to score on that (64-yard) one.”

Spiller had two touchdowns and 73 yards as the Tigers totaled 337 rushing yards.

Injuries. Bowden said Clemson running back Reggie Merriweather is day-to-day for next week’s game with Georgia Tech. The Clemson coach said Merriweather’s ankle has not responded to rehab.

The coaches decided to hold him out of the Temple game after watching him come up gimpy during warm ups.
There were no injures to come out of Thursday’s game. Clemson officials said guard Chris McDuffie hurt his wrist, but he is not expected to miss any practice time next week.

Courtesy of Daily Journal

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