Commentary: Handing Out Praise Where Praise Is Due

by - Correspondent -
Leroy Hill with the sack of UVa's quarterback.

CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden gets criticized quite a bit these days.

Of course, he has been known to provide sufficient ammunition for such criticism. Televised blowouts, poor performances against ranked teams and a ship that at times has appeared to be rudderless will make the natives restless.

Such is the hazard of a high-profile job in a cut-throat business.

I, for one, was extremely critical earlier this season when, for whatever reason, Bowden refused to turn his wide receivers loose and attack people downfield. When he did, the offense opened up and - save for the Maryland game - has looked much better.

But one thing I was always taught by my God-fearing parents was fairness.

And if Bowden is to be criticized when events warrant, so too should he be praised at the appropriate time.

Long considered a poor motivator, Bowden had the Tigers ready to play Saturday afternoon. Dominant on defense, Virginia never found a rhythm in the first half. The top rushing team in the Atlantic Coast Conference was stymied all afternoon, so much so that the Cavs all but abandoned the pass during a 17-point third quarter.

That stretch appeared to highlight another of Bowden's weaknesses - opposing coaches always seem to make better halftime adjustments than the Clemson mentor. And when Virginia quickly turned a 10-0 deficit into a 17-10 lead, the thought "here we go again" crossed more than one mind inside Death Valley.

But Clemson regained its edge and showed something in the fourth quarter and overtime that many have questioned over the past year or so - heart.

Even as Virginia tied the game and - after forcing a quick three-and-out - took over with 37 seconds to go in regulation, trying to drive for a possible game-winning field goal, Clemson refused to lose.

Tye Hill's interception ended any hopes of a dramatic, devastating last-second loss on Homecoming 2003.

Instead, it was Clemson doing the celebrating after Kevin Youngblood's leaping catch in the endzone promised there would be no second overtime.

And play calling?

Here's to Bowden for the reverse to Derrick Hamilton on the team's first play from scrimmage. It went for 52 yards, but ultimately meant much more than that.

Because when he ran it from the same set in the opposite direction in the fourth quarter, the Cavs so focused on Hamilton that no one paid attention to Kevin Youngblood slipping into the secondary.

Hamilton's pass to Youngblood covered 29 yards and set up the game-tying score.

It also touched off a small celebration in the stands, one which would pale in comparison to the one after another Youngblood catch in overtime.

Has this team, and its coach, found the answers to all its problems? Not by a long shot.

But, for one day anyway, the ship appears headed in the right direction.

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