CLEMSON - Even before giving his team three full days off for Thanksgiving, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden thought the Tigers had responded well to its first South Carolina loss in five years.
Now, with the team back in camp after the break and focusing on Saturday's regular-season finale with visiting Duke, Bowden anticipates the enthusiasm will only get better considering what's on the line:
To become bowl eligible, Clemson must defeat a Duke team that has lost 22 consecutive games.
"They practiced pretty good Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (of last week)," Bowden said Monday. "This is the first time off in a long time. Even the Sept. 11 thing we practiced that week and had a game the next week. So really it was their first break. The enthusiasm has been good."
The situation is strikingly familiar to Bowden's first season two years ago, when 5-5 Clemson traveled to Columbia to face a South Carolina team which had lost 20 straight games.
The Tigers won that one, and ended up playing Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl.
Now, with Clemson's bowl future lying anywhere between Orlando and Seattle, Bowden maintains that going West to play in the postseason isn't that big of a deal.
"I think right now guys just want to go to a bowl," he said. "They want to get bowl eligible and have the (chance) to go somewhere. The original intention of the bowls was to reward the players, and a lot of them have never been out West. I'm sure (some) have never been West of the Mississippi.
"If your primary objective is a reward for those guys, I think a lot of them would be excited about it. I really do."
- Bowden has a financial stake in Saturday's game with Duke.
With six wins, his contract stipulates he is due an automatic bonus of six percent of his base salary ($165,000), plus half of that annual base salary for reaching a bowl game. Add it up, and it's an additional $92,400.
Despite that, Bowden claims to be unconcerned with any bonus pay.
"I'm paid well," he said. "I don't even think about that."
- Any hopes of Kevin Youngblood returning to action were nixed by Bowden.
He said the redshirt sophomore wide receiver, who has missed the entire season with broken leg suffered in preseason camp, won't be ready for Duke. Asked if Youngblood could return for a bowl game, Bowden referred all questions to trainer Danny Poole.