Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was a recent guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott to discuss the Wake Forest game. SportsTalk can be heard from 9 a.m.-12, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9 in upstate South Carolina.
Listen to the full interview here: Windows Media
DAN SCOTT: I have put my spies out, I've got some people working behind the scenes and we've come up empty trying to find out who has a little Tommy Bowden voodoo doll that's causing you guys all of this bad luck with injuries. We can't figure it out. Have you been able to put a finger on it?
COACH BOWDEN: Have you got the radar pinpointing Columbia anywhere?
DAN SCOTT: (Laughter) Haven’t gotten those returns back yet. We asked you this I know yesterday, the unusual circumstance of 2 noncontact broken foot injuries the same day. Any common thread at all, I mean even since we talked to you yesterday, have you been able to figure out anything at all?
COACH BOWDEN: No, not really, shoes or quality of shoes, everybody at Clemson wears the same ones. The fact that they're noncontact just shows you that it's purely a how things are out of your hands. You really don't have control, you think you've got control, but it's really out of your hands on things of this nature. You know, sometimes the ball bounces to you and sometimes it bounces away from you. Same with a tipped pass. I think injuries of this nature are very similar.
DAN SCOTT: The adversity you've faced this year because of the injuries; first Tramaine Billie, then Anthony Waters, Michael Hamlin, Reggie Meriweather's going to miss his second straight game, Chansi Stuckey's going to be out for an extended period of time. All of these are front line guys. Have you ever been through anything like this before?
COACH BOWDEN: Not this many, I really haven't. And then, as I've mentioned several times, if you have a young freshman, it would have to be him or maybe redshirt freshman or sophomore, we've had all of these leaders go down, Anthony and Tramaine and Chansi you know our seniors, 5th year seniors, Tramaine's a 4th year senior, played a lot of football, you know, in the heat of battle on the field, the coach is off the field, that's who steps up and those are the things that you miss.
DAN SCOTT: If there is a silver lining to it, I would imagine it's that as your recruiting has picked up over the last 3 years, and you point out that due to the west end zone project how that has helped the recruiting improve, you at least have some quality depth, young depth, but some quality players with some talent to fill in these positions, whereas if this happened in 2002 or 2003, it probably has a more devastating effect.
COACH BOWDEN: We're having more ability now to absorb things of this nature. Of course, there are some positions we're a little more deep than others. But you know, Jacoby Ford is not going to have the experience of Chansi, might not have the consistency at this point in time in catching the ball, but if he gets a hold of one, they would catch Chansi from behind, they will not catch this guy, so you're going to give and take a little bit and hopefully, he might make a mistake or two, but make up for it with speed and athleticism. But we'll be able to recruit as you mentioned because of that west zone project.
DAN SCOTT: At the same time, with a guy like Jacoby Ford, plugging him into a position in place of an injured Chansi Stuckey, do you have to talk to him and remind him, "hey, don't go out and try to beat Chansi Stuckey, try to beat Jacoby Ford."
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, Dabo Swinney, who is his position coach, is a veteran you know, and he's been through these wars and he's been through this type of situation, he'll handle that, and I'm sure he already has, in fact we've talked about how he's addressed with his position, which is the wide receivers, so that's been mentioned to him and I think he'll be well versed in that. He's just got to go out and then play within what his abilities will allow him to do, and like you said, not duplicate somebody else.
DAN SCOTT: And of course you told us yesterday, much like some of the earlier injuries this season, you're going to be relying on the rest of the team to pick up some of the slack.
COACH BOWDEN: Exactly. And what you'd like is for the rest of the team to all raise their level of play another intensity notch or 2 and close ranks and rally around the injuries. So. Cal absorbs losses, Ohio State absorbs defensive graduations and they're still up there. Every team has to absorb this and reload and carry on. That's what separates the good teams from the average ones. Let's see if we can be good instead of average and overcome this until he comes back.
DAN SCOTT: We'll we know you're going to have to be very good this week to face a Wake Forest team in Groves Stadium. The problems you've had there the last 2 times have been well documented. Despite some injury problems of his own, Jim Grobe's team is 5-0. You've obviously watched film on them. What are they doing this year that has perhaps has enabled them to get off to a better start than they've been off to in year's past?
COACH BOWDEN: Well, as I've mentioned several times of course, it's defense and scoring defense, No.1 in the ACC in scoring defense, of course with Miami, Fl State, and Virginia Tech, you think, wait a minute, what's Wake Forest. And you've got Georgia Tech, you've got us, you've got other great defenses, but Wake Forest leads the ACC in scoring defense. In fact, Wake Forest leads the ACC in scoring defense in the red zone, so I'd say, that's why they're 5-0, number 1. But I think their scheme offensively presents problems that are not common to what you see on a week to week basis. So I'd say those 2 things would be the 2 biggest things if not the whole thing. There are some others but I'll skip those things. I think those would be the top 2 things.
DAN SCOTT: How do you respond if somebody says, yeah, but look at who they've played. They've played a winless team, a 1AA team, their strength of schedule is not very good, they haven't played anybody.
COACH BOWDEN: Well, yeah, to the naked eye, Georgia just happened to be in Oxford, MS last week and Ole Miss had the ball going down to win the game, it was 14-9 and Ole Miss had a chance to win it on the last drive. Wake Forest cleaned Ole Miss up early, beat them by 20 points. More than that, the score was 27 to 3, I think, beat them by 20 points. And then Iowa who was No 13 for the nation at the time goes to Syracuse and had to take them in overtime in order to win the game, Wake Forest wins by 10, so I think if you look at what other teams did playing the Ole Misss' and the Syracuses', and look what Wake Forest did, then I think you get a better comparative analysis as opposed to look at what they did at Duke and look what they did at Liberty, I think that brings things into a better perspective than looking at, like you say, the other games. Just look at the ones that they've played and beat that other teams that we know are good played.
DAN SCOTT: Coach, as you look at the Wake Forest team in previous years, with their scheme you talked about, they ran for a 2 or 3 year period almost 300 yards a game on you. Last year up there you were able to limit the running game and then some of the weird stuff happened. The deflected interception off of Chansi Stuckey's foot, had a couple of break downs in the passing game that gave up some big plays, but you were able to stop their run, I guess what I'm getting at is that's going to be the key again I would imagine this week and then hope that the funky stuff doesn’t' happen again, right?
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, unfortunately, last year they started to get away and thought they had to throw the football more they were at 4, 5, and 6 wins, they wanted to try and get out of that mold, so they tried to throw the ball a little bit more and they had a losing record so they went back to more of what they'd done in the past when they averaged, unfortunately 283 yards, I know exactly how many yards it was. It was 283 yards a game, right at it, as you said, close to 300. They’ve gone back to more of that, so obviously, that would be my concern. We defended a run pretty good against them last year. I think they had 130 yards and I think they led the ACC in rushing, but now they've gone back so we've got to go back again and see if we can defend what they've done in the past few years that have given us problems.
DAN SCOTT: Obviously, I'm not asking you to give away any game plan, but just speaking in general terms, they're starting a red shirt freshman quarterback, a guy coming off the bench who was not expected to be the starter or to play much this year, when you've got a young guy like that, generally how do you approach how you want to attack him?
COACH BOWDEN: Well, there's obviously 2 different ways and I can't divulge information, but against North Carolina, there's 2 ways you can try to get 4 man pressure and give him multiple looks from a confusion standpoint of multiple coverages, or you can try to pressure him and make him throw quick with guys in his face and around his feet. But again, North Carolina and Wake are attacked a little differently, because if you blitz Wake, they have a little element of option, which is assignment football, all of a sudden you blitz and you're in man, they go out there and somebody forgets to take a dive or the quarterback or the pitch, then you're in trouble, so what they do sometimes can limit what you do and takes the burden off of a red shirt freshman quarterback where he doesn't have to sit there and throw and let you dictate. Their offense lets it dictate a little bit, more so than them having the necessity to pass.
DAN SCOTT: Your defensive players this week have been talking about something you just mentioned, playing assignment football, which is a little different because Wake Forest's scheme is a little different. How does that take away maybe from the aggressiveness of a defense or does it take away from the aggressiveness?
COACH BOWDEN: Well, there's an old saying that he who hesitates is lost, so you've got fast reaction time, the fastest reaction time between Point A and Point B, is the chance to have a success. What happens is you say, ok, if they're in 2 wide receivers to my 5 and if I'm the defensive end, I've got to dive on the option, now if there's just 1 wide receiver, I have the quarterback on the option, somebody else has got to dive. You know, they make you think in assignments, now when you do that, you've got to be sitting there processing this all in your mind, will they break the huddle, will they shift the receivers, are they going motion, all of a sudden with 1 receiver they go in motion and grade 2 receivers, the thought process has to continue to move on and all of a sudden the ball snaps and you say, yeah, now let's see, did I have the plot dive or do I have the quarterback or did I have the pitch, so it really slows your reaction time down, and as I mentioned, he who hesitates is lost.
DAN SCOTT: Finally Coach, you talked earlier in the week about playing before a sell-out crowd at Groves Stadium and about how different it is than playing before a sell-out crowd here, having said that, it's obviously going to be a jacked-up crowd and looking at that devil's advocate argument again, well they haven't played anybody, if they take that to heart, then beating you, this is a chance to kind of legitimize their season, so you know they're going to be intense, are you confident that your team is going to be able to match that intensity?
COACH BOWDEN: Dan, I can only base it on what's happened. We've played 5 games. We have showed up every game, some of them have been on the road, and some of them have been at home and with what's happened, beating us 2 out of 3 years, the biggest game in their school in 20 years, the fact that they're 5-0, the only way they can jump in the top 20 is to beat us, I'd be surprised if we don't come out with tremendous effort. I think we will, and I can only base that on what we've played so far, and what the leadership has done, so this is not one of those games that I think we're just going to show up and say "hey, let's just show up, we got this one in the bag". We've learned our lesson and the games we haven't won have been close. I do believe this will be a Boston College, Florida State game, Boston College was an overtime game, Florida State was a 60 minute game, I believe this one has the potential to be a 60 minute game and we're preparing our players exactly for that.
DAN SCOTT: Well you've been correct on all of those assessments so far for this season, so let's hope that that good run of luck continues, and good luck at Groves Stadium.