Texas Tech Raids Tigers for 55

by - Correspondent -
John Leake and Tigers stop Kingsbury on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line.

ORLANDO - As the stands began to empty early in the fourth quarter, a lone, disgruntled female Clemson fan threw her hands above her head in disgust and yelled across the field toward the bench: "What are you guys doing out there?!" Frankly, at times it looked as if they had no idea. The expected shootout at Monday night's Mazda Tangerine Bowl never occurred because only one team brought a loaded weapon. Led by senior quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech ran up and down the field at will on Clemson's bedraggled defense, bolting to a 32-point halftime lead and rolling over the Tigers, 55-15, at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando. "The score is pretty embarrassing," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. "I don't know what else to say. You lose one in the last second, or lose one when you're fighting hard in the fourth quarter, those are easier to take. "It will ruin Christmas." Things got so bad for Clemson (7-6) that even when it temporarily knocked Kingsbury out of the game early in the third quarter with a sprained ankle, Tech backup quarterback B.J. Symons led the Red Raiders downfield and completed the 79-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Preston Hartfield. That score made it 41-9 with 6:12 left in the quarter, and when Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw an interception deep in Tech (9-5) territory on the next possession, the game was over - figuratively, if not officially. "We felt like we played with a good tempo and everybody fed off one another," said Tech head coach Mike Leech. "That allowed a whole bunch of things to go our way. Clemson's a tough football team, but today just happened to be our day." Whitehurst finished the night with four interceptions and a bad headache. The Red Raiders' defense - billed as a passive, bend-but-don't break unit coming into the game - manhandled the Tigers' offensive line and beat on Whitehurst all night long. When he wasn't being sacked (four times), the redshirt freshman was being chased around his own backfield and pounded to the ground. More than once Whitehurst was slow getting up, but to his credit never left the field until he was knocked out of the game by a vicious hit from Tech linebacker Geremy Woods with 2:10 remaining in the game. Whitehurst suffered a concussion on the play, according to Sports Information Director Tim Bourret. It was then - and only then - that junior Willie Simmons made his first appearance in almost five full games, despite the fact that the Tigers trailed by 40 points at the time. "(Whitehurst) took a beating," said Bowden. "It was hard to say if it was their scheme or our protection, but a lot of times we had a hat on them and they ran through us." The running attack wasn't any better. Senior Bernard Rambert (groin) and sophomore Yusef Kelly (leg) both left the game with injuries, but had combined for just 19 yards before doing so. Redshirt freshman Tye Hill and fullback Chad Jasmin played the rest of the way and accumulated 20 yards, also on nine carries. "I hate that for Bernard. I wish he could have played and I wish Kelly could have played," Bowden said. "But that didn't have anything to do with the loss. Our defense couldn't slow them down and offensively we didn't give them any help." Meanwhile, Clemson's defense had no answer for Kingsbury and his wide array of targets. The senior quarterback completed passes to nine different receivers, consistently finding them running free in the middle of Clemson's secondary. He finished the night 32-of-43 for 375 yards and three touchdown passes, and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. As if that wasn't enough, his final completion of the game - a 19-yarder to Mickey Peters with just over 6:00 left in the game, gave him 5,017 yards for the season. Kingsbury became just the third quarterback in NCAA history to reach the 5,000 plateau in a season, joining Houston's David Klingler and Brigham Young's Ty Detmer. "Five thousand is a big number," Kingsbury said. "That just shows how well our offense played this year. A lot of guys will be back next year, so we should be good again." Two of Kingsbury's three scoring passes came in the first half, 46-yards to Nehemiah Glover and 19-yards to Peters. A Taurean Henderson 10-yard run, a 58-yard punt return by Wes Welker and two Robert Treece field goals (29, 40), put the Red Raiders ahead 34-2 at the half. Clemson's only points of the half came on a safety caused when Tye Hill blocked a Tech punt through the back of the end zone. Kingsbury's final touchdown pass - a 9-yarder to Welker - and the second of Symons' scoring strikes (27-yards to Henderson) closed out the Tech scoring. Clemson got second half scores on Whitehurst's 10-yard scoring pass to Ben Hall and a two-yard run by Jasmin.

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