Clemson's Keys To Victory


by - Correspondent -
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COLUMBIA - If Clemson hopes to continue its recent mastery of South Carolina, defense and turnovers will be the deciding factors.

So said Tigers' head coach Tommy Bowden earlier this week, and he should know. His team has come up short in both categories far too often this season.

"If we don't turn the ball over I think we can win the game," he said. "I think this game is going to come down to defense, number one, and then turnovers, number two. It won't be that hard of a game to get your players up. If we don't turn the ball over and get some on defense, I think that will be the key."

It sounds easy enough, but stopping the opposition has been the bain of Clemson's existence in 2001. The Tigers are giving up over 370 yards per game, and the secondary has been scorched so badly, and so often, that a popular joke has the state fire marshall launching an inquiry.

But if there is one ray of hope today for Clemson, it's that South Carolina prefers to run the football.

The trio of fullback Andrew Pinnock and tailbacks Derek Watson and Ryan Brewer gives the Gamecocks a versatile backfield. Pinnock represents power, Watson speed, and Brewer gives coach Lou Holtz the ability to run or pass out of any formation.

Carolina's passing attack, on the other hand, ranges from mediocre to average. Senior quarterback Phil Petty does a good job managing the Gamecock offense, and can make the occasional big play in the passing game. But Petty is fighting a shoulder injury, and his status late Friday still was listed as questionable.

Petty's injury, along with the season-ending injury to linebacker Kalimba Edwards, would seem to work to Clemson's favor. But Bowden isn't so sure.

"Last year, (Clemson quarterback) Woody Dantzler was probably 75-80 percent and played in the game," he said. "Injuries the last two years have been a factor with us as far as quarterback. Whether it's South Carolina or whoever, injuries are a part of the game."

So is environment, and Bowden expects the usual wild afternoon at Williams-Brice.

"It's similar to Alabama-Auburn or Florida-Florida State and other places I've been where it's a really good college environment," he said. "It's loud, it's a pretty stadium. You go out there during pregame and its charged with electricity. And those aren't situations that happen on a week-to-week basis at most schools.

"Some schools don't have that type of electricity in their environment. It's an in-state rivalry, very intense and you can feel it."

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