CLEMSON - There used to be an old television ad for Rolaids, the heartburn
remedy, which asked its customers how they spelled relief.
The hook, of course, was the spelling out of the product name -
For Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden, the kind of football-induced heartburn
from which he commonly suffers can't be cured by any laboratory-created
antacid. For Bowden, relief came very simply:
With a W-I-N.
"I thought we really needed a win," Bowden said during his regular Sunday
teleconference. "We've been on the road the last two weeks, lost a
hard-fought game in Tallahassee and turned it over and lost in Virginia. Our
statistics were better in both, but we came up with two losses.
"That's the final verdict in this sport. You have to find a way to win. It
happened to us the last two weeks, so it's good for us to get one like that."
The win, a 31-23 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest at Death Valley,
likely saved Clemson's season. At least for the moment.
At 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Tigers have put
themselves in position to reclaim even more respect this week when they host
unbeaten and No. 12 North Carolina State in an ESPN Thursday night game in
Clemson. A win there gives Bowden's team a chance to at least partially
control its own destiny in the race for No. 2 in the conference.
But were it not for a big second half Saturday, most notably by the defense,
the N.C. State game would have meant little except posturing for another
lower-tier bowl. If that.
"The biggest thing was the turnovers," Bowden said. "It could have been easy
for (the defense) to get frustrated because we weren't doing much offensively
in the first half. We finally got some turnovers in the second half."
Clemson's defense forced five turnovers in the final 30 minutes of play, but
none bigger than the last.
With Wake Forest's Chris Barclay seemingly steps away from a touchdown - one
that would have been followed by a two-point conversion attempt to tie the
game with 1:15 to go - senior Brian Mance rode to the rescue. Coming over
from his left cornerback spot, Mance hit Barclay from the side and stripped
the ball inside the five yard line.
The ball rolled through the back of the endzone for a touchback, giving
Clemson possession and a much-needed victory.
"That final play isn't even Mance's play," Bowden said. "(Barclay's) running
through the middle because whoever was supposed to make that play got
blocked. But Mance comes over from the outside and strips the ball out."
The second-half turnaround turned a few early boos into deafening cheers in
the fourth quarter.
Asked if the boos bothered him, Bowden laughed.
"Nah, they boo in Tallahassee, they boo in Happy Valley (Penn State) and I'm
sure they were booing out in Lincoln (Nebraska). Those are all good places to
be, and this is a good place to be, too."