CLEMSON -- Instead of the coin toss Saturday when Clemson faces Missouri at
Death Valley, maybe the referee should just say, Clemson...meet bizarro
The sports information department at Clemson came up with enough
similarities between the two football programs to start anyone that believes
in the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory to thinking.
First, both teams are nicknamed the Tigers. Both play in Memorial Stadium.
Both schools have recently been refurbished with brick and iron fencing.
It gets a lot better.
Both have a legendary former head coach. Clemson's is Frank Howard.
Missouri's is Don Faurot. Howard won 165 games. Faurot won 169. Howard died
on Jan. 28, 1996 of congestive heart failure. Faurot died three months later
of the same condition.
If that's not enough...
Clemson has 203 wins in Memorial Stadium, Missouri has 204 in Memorial
Stadium. Clemson has 563 all-time wins, Missouri 540. Clemson has 23 bowl
appearances, Missouri 21. Clemson has 12 all-time bowl wins, Missouri 9.
Clemson has scored 18,387 points all-time, Missouri has scored 18,054.
And to top it all off, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden isn't the only coach on
the sideline that got his head coaching start at Tulane. Missouri's coach
Larry Smith did the same in 1979.
Don't be surprised if the teams meet at midfield Saturday, slowly walking
toward each other, each player slowly approaching the one person on the
other team that they somehow resemble.
Justin Watts, the one player who was on the field in 1996 when Clemson lost
to Missouri, 38-24, at Columbia, Mo., notices the similarities. "They were
an I-team with some drop-back passing and you look at them this year and
they have four or five wide like we do," said Watts. "They have a pressure
defense, just like we do and so through the years, we really look alike to
In fact, it's hard to find anything that differentiates the two teams.
Clemson is ranked No. 17, while Missouri is unranked. That's a similar
scenario to the 1996 meeting when Clemson was the favorite with five future
pros on defense.
If anything, Bowden thinks Missouri is more flexible on offense. If need be
it could turn to a running game that Clemson doesn't have.
"If they can't throw and catch the ball, the can close the splits on the
line and go back to a running game," he said. "That might be the plan for
them, anyway. For us, it's going to be critical that we throw and catch the
Otherwise, it's hard to find, this early in the season, a clear advantage
for Clemson. In fact, that 1996 game, even though Watts and a couple of the
coaches are the only ones still around, is a haunting presence.
"That was a breakthrough game for us," said Smith. "It really came down to
that was when our team started to come together. Our defense played
extremely well and we pretty much shot down the running game. It was a big
game for us."
Big game...meet bizzaro game.