Commentary: Want to Win? Just Hold on to the Ball

by - Correspondent -

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON - Despite a 1-3 start, Clemson's Tommy Bowden was adamant that his football team didn't need to deviate from anything it was doing.

"It's not like we need to revamp the offense and defense," he said at his weekly press conference Tuesday.

He is right. Clemson doesn't need to do any of those things. There is nothing wrong with the coaching, the play-calling, the formations or the scheme. For the most part, this is the same game planning and coaching that led to the four-game win streak to close last year.

But the Tigers do need to change something, and that something or some things in this case ­ turnovers.

Clemson is 117 in the country ­ that's dead last ­ when it comes to making and creating turnovers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why its record is 1-3.

"We really want to eliminate turnovers and start creating some on defense," Bowden said.

Bowden said he talked with several coaches around the country last week to get their take and if they could tell him anything he could do to change the mindset of his players.

I wonder if he talked to the other big-name coach in the state?

If he did, and I seriously doubt it, I wonder what he asked Lou and what Lou's reply was.

If he didn't ­ and he didn't ­ why not?

Sure, South Carolina is his No. 1 rival, but come on, the Gamecocks had more interceptions against Alabama - four ­ than Clemson has in total turnovers through four games ­ two. While Clemson was No. 117 in turnovers with a

minus-12 total, South Carolina is tied for 20th with a plus-5 ratio.

"As long as we keep playing hard that is going to (change)," said Bowden.

But the question is, when will it happen? And will it be too late when it does?

"I wish I knew," Bowden said.

But what Bowden and his Tigers can do is keep working to get the magic that ended last season back.

Looking at the final four games of last year and comparing them to the first four games of this year, the key to that success is turning the turnover battle around.

In wins over Florida State, Duke, South Carolina and Tennessee, Clemson's defense forced 10 turnovers, while the offense limited its mistakes to seven. In a win against Wake Forest to start this season and three straight losses to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and Florida State, the Tigers have forced just two turnovers, while giving it up 14 times.

On the average, a team gets just 14 possessions a game. With that said, Clemson has given away a full game on turnovers alone.

"We talk about it and (we) know it has to be addressed," said Bowden. "I've talked to other head coaches, and many of them have been a head coach longer than I have, and they've all told me that you just have to keep playing hard and it will start to swing in your favor." The way the Tigers will try to swing it in their favor is by starting anew.

During the off week, Bowden preached to his team that Thursday's game at Virginia is the first of a seven-game schedule, which has plenty left on the table.

"That is our mentality right now," said defensive tackle Eric Coleman. "The first four games are done and over now." Will this new philosophy work, again?

"With the open date, we had a chance to look at our weaknesses over four games. Hopefully, we can correct some things and see what happens in this 'new season,'" Bowden said.

If the Tigers can't correct the turnovers, however, then this new season will look a lot like the old one.

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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