CLEMSON, SC -- The only thing more boring than college football season-openers are the quotes that come from players and coaches before the games. In their meetings, the Clemson coaching staff might be referring to The Citadel as Bellhop U, but in public Tommy Bowden and most of his players make the Bulldog's flexbone offense sound like a Chinese riddle.
Not Clemson wide receiver Rod Gardner.
Gardner missed the meeting where Bowden covered the finer points of making it sound like he is having nightmares of The Citadel's cadets mounting a charge on Clemson and capturing the city. Gardner might end up the most embarrassed player on the field Saturday, but you have to give him credit for saying what he thought on Tuesday.
"We need to put fifty or sixty points on the board," he said. "Everybody is ready and hyped for the season. Going into the game we're focused on accomplishing our goals. Everybody knows what's going on. Right now we have to go and play and have fun."
"We're really going to try to run up the score. It's the first game and we really need to go out there and run the table so the nation sees the score on TV and says Clemson's for real."
In a word it's refreshing. At the very least it's interesting. Now, Tuesday might have been Gardner's last trip to Clemson's pre-game press conference. But for one day, at least, the truth got out - not that everyone doesn't already know it. Clemson's mission Saturday isn't to beat The Citadel.
"This gives us time to get things corrected, then again it hurts us because we're not playing a top-ranked team with a good quarterback," said defensive tackle Jason Holloman.
The real mission is to be sure that the Sports Illustrated panel that voted the Tigers No. 8 in the nation is somehow justified.
"I mean we feel that people are giving us our respect - they want to see what we've got," he said. "Going into this year, we've got 17 or 18 starters returning and big players on offense and defense. On offense and defense we just have to get our mind right and go out there and do it. Last year we were just trying to get respect back. This year we can go to the next level. Clemson is for real. We're a team to watch."
Clemson has had enough injuries in the pre-season to make even those that might have put Clemson on a list of darkhorses for a BCS big to reevaluate the Tigers. The offensive line is a patchwork group, Thorpe Award candidate Robert Carswell is questionable for the game and the starting tight end isn't on campus yet.
Then there's Gardner.
"If we run that score up, then people will say Clemson is where they're supposed to be."