Clemson/USC: A Week Later

by - Correspondent -
South Carolina's Demetris Summers found running difficult with his feet off the ground.
South Carolina's Demetris Summers found running difficult with his feet off the ground.

There was a sign in Williams-Brice Stadium the night of the Clemson/Carolina game that read "Thanks Dad, Love Tommy."

If South Carolina fans honestly think that Bobby Bowden felt the need to be charitable against his son’s team back on November 8, then they must think Lou Holtz is the most philanthropic soul on the face of the earth.

Tommy Bowden became the first coach in NCAA history to earn victories against coaches with 200+ wins in the same month. Both have won a national championship. Both are considered to be coaching legends.

The difference is that Bobby Bowden owns the Tigers and Lou Holtz does not. In fact, Clemson owns Holtz, the Gamecocks, and Williams-Brice.

As Tommy and Lou entered their fifth year at their respective schools, most of the preseason publicity was directed towards Holtz. He had consecutive recruiting classes that were highly ranked. He had the national appeal the media loves. He had everything going for him.

After 12 games, the Tigers are the ones on a roll and the Gamecocks are reeling after suffering the worst loss in the series since 1900.


If Bowden had wanted to, he could have put 80 or more points on the board. It was just that easy for the Tigers offense.

Clemson had nine scoring drives in which they racked up a grand total of 421 yards. South Carolina only managed 319 yards of total offense the entire night.

Altogether, the Tigers finished with 542 yards. Charlie Whitehurst found seven different receivers, four of who had touchdown receptions, as he turned in one of the best performances of his young career. In just three quarters of play, he threw for 302 yards and rushed for another 43.

The ground game accumulated a season high 240 yards. Perhaps the ultimate sign of dominance was backup quarterback Chansi Stuckey led all rushers with 77 yards in only one quarter of play.

The offensive line manhandled the Gamecocks. Never has Whitehurst had so much time to throw. The Gamecocks did not register a sack and only hit him two or three times. It had to feel like just another practice session for the sophomore QB.

Coming into the game, Clemson had not allowed points off of a turnover in 8 of their 11 contests. That changed, but it did not have any effect on the outcome. The Tigers are now 6-0 on the season when they commit fewer turnovers.

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By rushing for 240 yards, the Tigers are now 16-0 under Bowden when breaking the 200-yard barrier on the ground. There have been 43 times in the history of Clemson football in which they have rushed and passed for 200+ yards. They are 42-0-1 in those games. They are also 45-0-1 in games where they have accumulated more than 500 yards of total offense.

The coaches had a great game plan and the players executed it to near perfection. It was, without a doubt, the most efficient offensive performance under Bowden’s watch. It may have been the best all-around effort in the history of Clemson football.


The Tigers defense set the tone on the first play of the game and did not let up all night. After three possessions, the Gamecocks had managed just nine plays that lost four yards.

South Carolina’s next two possessions were drives of 82 and 80 yards that resulted in 10 points. Their longest drives the remainder of the night were 47 and 51 yards. Neither drive resulted in points. Their final touchdown came on a fourth-and-three play from the CU 3 after they recovered a muffed punt at the CU 6.

Clemson put on a hitting clinic much of the night. The USC quarterbacks were constantly harassed and their running game never had a chance to establish itself. Speaking of their ground game, highly touted freshman Demetris Summers made a big stink earlier in the season concerning the booing demonstrated by Clemson fans. Turnabout is fair play as the Gamecock faithful booed their offensive woes as early as the first quarter.

Jamaal Fudge continued his stellar play as he provided good run support and picked off two passes. He would have had an easy touchdown on one of the returns had he not gotten too excited and tripped over his own feet. That mistake was indicative of how the Tigers played all night; they shut themselves down more than the Gamecock offense did.

South Carolina completed just 47% of their passes. Ten of their drives resulted in punts or turnovers. They were a mere 3-of-13 on 3rd down conversions. Simply put, the Clemson defense had their way with the South Carolina offense.


Cole Chason picked the biggest game of the year to have his best night. He punted four times for an average of 43.8 yards while not allowing a return.

The offense’s productivity kept Aaron Hunt from attempting any field goals but he was perfect on all eight of his extra point attempts. Walk-on kicker and student body president Fletcher Anderson even made an appearance, and was true on the final extra point attempt of the night.

The kickoff return team average 26 yards on three returns while the Tigers only gave up 18 yards per return. Jad Dean kicked off 10 times and managed 4 touchbacks.

Perhaps the biggest special teams play of the night was Travis Pugh’s block of a Daniel Weaver field goal in the second quarter. If the Gamecocks had any hopes of making a game of it, the block was the proverbial nail in the coffin. It killed any momentum they may have had.

The only negative came when Derrick Hamilton muffed a punt that gave USC the ball at the Clemson 6-yard line. It was not that costly of an error because the game was already out of reach, but it was a mistake you never want to see.


It was a dominating performance for the Tigers. Despite suffering losses to Furman, The Citadel, and Navy in the last 20 years, it may have been the most embarrassing loss in the history of South Carolina football. Clemson scored the most points in the history of one of the longest rivalries in college football as they turned in a performance that will never be forgotten by either side.

USC faithful have talked all season about their superior talent and physical style of play. If that is indeed the case, their only excuse is that Tommy Bowden simply out coached one of the greatest coaches in history of college football.

The USC program now seems to be in a state of total disarray. Despite saying he would take some time to think long and hard about the status of his staff, Lou Holtz fired three assistants and re-assigned a fourth just two days after the game. After suffering two consecutive losing seasons for the first time since he was at William and Mary, Holtz seemingly had to find someone to blame other than himself.

Meanwhile, Clemson managed to close out the season on a very strong note after suffering a humiliating loss to Wake Forest. Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips stuck to his guns and did not make a rash decision at any point during the season. His counterpart, Mike McGee, did just the opposite as he tried to capitalize on some of the discontent at Clemson when he offered a contract extension to Lou Holtz the week of the game. Phillips unquestionably made the right decision.

Now that a week has passed, it is hard to say what the ramifications of this game will be. One can presume that Tommy Bowden is now very close to signing a contract extension and recruiting will improve. Clemson fans are extremely excited about the future while some Gamecock followers are now questioning their direction, and whether or not they will ever establish a winning tradition.


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They speak of youth being one of their biggest downfalls this season. Few can argue that point. The problem with that argument is that Clemson is a younger team that managed to get more guys on the field on a consistent basis throughout the season. In games against FSU and South Carolina, the Tigers had over 50 guys participate before the end of the first quarter.

That is the ultimate sign that the program is finally getting to the level Tommy Bowden wanted when he took over. A solid mixture of depth and experience is in store for the future.

The Tigers must now capitalize on this momentum as they head to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl. A win over a SEC team will greatly improve the image of the program. A 9-4 season with four straight victories to close should make recruiting that much more successful.

Bowden is now in an enviable position as Clemson is on the verge of becoming a pretty good team. Despite the preseason predictions, mid-season turmoil, and the media’s love affair with Lou Holtz, Tommy has managed to persevere and keep his focus.

That speaks volumes about him as a person and as a coach. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, he proved he is the man that deserves to lead Clemson. Where he takes the Tigers is unknown, but it should be a very fun ride.

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