Sound of 80K Fans Not Always Music to Tigers' Ears

by - Correspondent -

You can simulate everything but the noise.

You can pipe it in on speakers, but nothing makes a sound like 80,000 people yelling at once.

At its lowest level it's like a loud waterfall. You can yell over it and still be heard at a distance - if you're concentrating on reading the other person's lips.

At its worst it's like standing next to a 747 - yelling doesn't help. You can't even hear the person next to you. The football helmet doesn't help, either.

"Eighty thousand in that bowl out there is loud," said Tommy Bowden of his first game in Death Valley.

A lot louder than an empty Superdome, anyway. Even louder than offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez shouting in your ear, though some might argue that.

Bowden did everything he knew of to prepare the offense for the pressure of an opening game in front of 80,000. The coaching staff screamed and yelled, questioned players about every possible scenario. The coaches did everything but take away their ability to hear.

The noise changes everything. It isolates a player. Teammates seem a mile away.

It changes everything about an offense dependent on reading the defense and then reacting in unison to changes made at the line of scrimmage.

"Even though we're the home team, it's a big factor," said wide receiver Mal Lawyer. "With our offense if you don't get the check, it won't work."
The third largest opening game crowd (80,250) in Clemson history gave the Tigers some problems.

"We didn't get a lot of the checks because we couldn't hear at times," said Lawyer. "A lot of the checks were misread."

You might say the high-flying offense was shot down in part by friendly fire.
Nobody's complaining, though. Bowden's just trying to make sense out of an offensive performance against Marshall that was anemic in the first half and produced only one touchdown in a 13-10 loss.

"A lot of the problems were due to a lot of thinking," said Bowden. "A lot due to confusion. You get out there and you have to get the reads on the defense and do other things and before you know it the ball is being snapped. Instead of reacting, you're thinking."

Clemson gained just 13 yards in the first quarter. Quarterbacks Brandon Streeter and Woody Dantzler combined for 27 completions and 244 yards passing, most of which came in the second half. It didn't look polished. That didn't bother Bowden.

"We've been here nine months trying to put in a system," said Bowden. "I doubt after nine months that you reap immediate rewards. If you're in business you're probably not going to be making money after nine months. It's no different in football."

What concerned Bowden was what he called a lack of aggressiveness.

"The game of football is a game of contact and collisions," he said. "As a whole, as a team, we were soft and not aggressive. That wasn't the reputation we had at Tulane or when I was in the SEC."

Clemson faces Virginia Saturday at Death Valley Saturday. Lawyer is hoping to quiet any talk of a repeat of last season, when close losses were the rule.

"You start thinking about last year and the way we lost games," he said. "There was that talk, but we hushed that very quickly. We played better on Saturday than we did last year. We put ourselves in a position to win, which we didn't last year."

Lawyer is hoping to make the noise of 80,000 fans music to his ears.

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