Commentary: Bowden's Tone Dead On The Money

by - Correspondent -

I found Tommy Bowden's tone very interesting Sunday afternoon.

As usual we beat writers/other media meet with the coach via teleconference to discuss what he saw on Saturday's game film. This week, though happy with Cullen Harper and the offense, he was much more discouraged than one would think after a 23-point victory.

The source of his angst was Clemson's run defense, which allowed Cedric Dawson over 120 yards on the ground - all against the Tigers' first team - and another 100-yard back later in the day.

When the film work was done, Bowden's mood was teetering on the dark side.

"I have to be careful. I suppose I should be happy with a 23-point win," he said. "But I can't see us beating the better teams on our schedule if we play defense like we did Saturday."

It was, to me, a bit out of sorts for Bowden to talk that way.

Usually he is one to grasp something upbeat, something which will cast his team in the most positive light available. Sometimes he does so to his own detriment, as with his "toughest schedule in the nation" talk last season after SID Tim Bourret pointed out that Clemson was the only school in the country at that particular time to have beaten (some number I can't remember) schools who were in the Top 25 when the Tigers got them.

But that aside, Bowden wasn't in a "blowing smoke" mood Sunday.

His defense couldn't get off the field as early as he wanted Saturday. Louisiana Monroe ran 82 plays, when Bowden and defensive coordinator Vic Koening wanted ULM held closer to 60.

I can hear you scratching your head now. But Clemson won, right? Big, right?

Yes, and yes. But the inability to stop ULM from running the football brought back nightmares from a year ago when, as things were falling apart, the Tiger defense had problems getting off the field.

Now, it's only one game. And it was on a short week. And it was after playing wonderfully against Florida State. And the emotion was down, on the field and in the stands, because of the quality of opponent.

But Bowden is right to be worried. And his tone was, quite honestly, refreshing. If Clemson is going to have a big season in 2007 the defense has to lead the way.

Emotional letdowns the rest of the way could be dangerous.

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