CLEMSON - The scenario isn't pretty.
An unexpected poor start to the 2004 college football season, coupled with what some perceive to be a Thursday night jinx, doesn't inspire much in the way of confidence in many Clemson fans.
And yet when his Tigers (1-3) take on No. 10 Virginia this Thursday night in Charlottesville, head coach Tommy Bowden doesn't expect to see a team saddled with desperation lining up opposite the Cavaliers. He expects to see a team playing with a positive sense of urgency.
Not, he said, a sense of desperation.
"There's a sense of urgency that's good and a sense of urgency that's bad," Bowden said following Sunday's practice. "You definitely don't want them uptight. If they're playing with a sense of (desperation) you get a little tight, the quarterback gets afraid to make a throw, the back's afraid to fumble, you're afraid to take a chance on an interception."
The Tigers' mistakes this season, he continued, mostly have been mistakes of aggression.
There have been few, if any, instances the coach can recall one of his players making a tentative error. When those start happening, that's when he knows the team has become uptight.
"That's my only motto right now - If you mess up, mess up full speed," Bowden said. "I don't think (the opposite) has materialized."
Having said all that, Bowden wasn't happy with Sunday's practice.
The team returned to the field after two days off, the first of four workouts in preparation for Thursday's game at Virginia. After three tough, physical practices to end last week, Bowden had hoped for more enthusiasm Sunday.
But even a session of full contact work at the end of practice did little to stir enthusiasm.
"We practiced like it was a Sunday afternoon, which we traditionally don't practice," Bowden said. "We finished up live, short-yardage today, which we normally don't do this time of week. But we felt like we had to do because of the caliber of competition and their style of offense."
Defensive end Bobby Williamson (sprained foot) and fullback Cliff Harrell (facial infection) were back at practice full speed Sunday, while backup whip linebacker Lionel Richardson (sprained neck) was in a green jersey (limited contact).
Kelvin Grant and Jamaal Fudge each missed practice to attend family funerals.
Duane Coleman will start at tailback Thursday, but look for Yusef Kelly to move back to No. 2 on the depth chart - even if for just one game.
"His style, more of a straight ahead, tough runner, seems to work better against their defense," Bowden said. "They get real wide trying to protect the outside and force everything inside, so there are some soft spots in the middle. You just have to be able to find them."
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.