Commentary: A Challenge To Clemson Fans

by - Correspondent -
Saturday will be the final home game for Kevin Youngblood and the Clemson seniors.

While the Clemson nation continues to bask in the kind of glory that comes from upsetting the No. 3 team in the country, danger lurks around the next corner.

Danger, in this case, in the form of Duke.

Not so much on-field danger - although since Ted Roof replaced Carl Franks a few weeks ago the Blue Devils have been much more competitive, and even snapped that embarrassing ACC losing streak by drubbing Georgia Tech last weekend.

But competition aside, Duke's improvement isn't the issue. Instead, this Saturday's danger arises from within.

During any normal Clemson football season, a Duke home game usually means a crowd in the 65,000 range, maybe less (despite official attendance figures released, based on "tickets sold"). The pregame traffic never really reaches a peak of aggravation, the anticipation never quite reaches a high.

Even tailgating takes on something of a subdued tone.

Why? Well, because it's Duke. Instant victory. Large margin. Early exit. Better things to do. Doesn't the garage need cleaning? What a good weekend to visit grandma out of town.

In other words, nothing to see here.

That's the attitude which usually prevails for a Blue Devil trip to Death Valley. And it's exactly what the Tigers - not to mention head coach Tommy Bowden - don't need this weekend.

The victory over Florida State a week ago has hushed much of the "Fire Bowden" propaganda so prevalent on radio talk shows and Internet discussion boards in weeks previous. To be sure, most of the rhetoric surrounding Bowden's future has been of a positive nature in recent days.

Heck, even some of the anti-Bowden hardliners converted this week, repenting their evil ways and changing sides as if answering a Billy Graham altar call.

Just how strong that newfound faith is will be tested Saturday. For if the usual lackluster Duke crowd shows up for the non-televised, 1 p.m. clash, don't be surprised if the team on the field plays in the same fashion.

If the win over Florida State proved anything it's that these Tigers will respond to a charged up crowd, even if some of their predecessors wouldn't. And with plenty of work left to do this season - and perhaps a job still to save - Clemson needs all the charging up it can get.

So, Tiger fans, it's time to back up all the self-promotion and chest thumping from this week. Put up or shut up, as it were.

Based on what has transpired in the last seven days, anything less than 75,000 in the seats should be judged a disappointment. Accomplish that figure, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back.

See you at the game.

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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