Tigers Close Out Bowl Practice in Clemson


by - Correspondent -
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The Tigers will practice four more times in Atlanta.

CLEMSON, SC -- Clemson finished a week and a half of practices for the Peach
Bowl on Wednesday. The team will meet in Atlanta on Sunday to continue
preparing for next Thursday's game.


"They worked hard and did a good job," said coach Tommy Bowden. "Nobody was
late and nobody missed a practice, which doesn't happen very often."


The only injury came on Monday when wide receiver Justin Watts pulled a
hamstring. Watts still participated in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday,
but will likely be replaced in the starting lineup against Mississippi State
by Matt Bailey.


"I don't see how a guy that runs a 4.8 40 can pull a hamstring," joked
Bowden.


Brandon Streeter has completely recovered from the dislocated hip he
suffered on Nov. 13 against Georgia Tech and will start at quarterback,
according to offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.


BIG PLAYS NEEEDED -
The Tigers know how to beat Mississippi State. Doing it is another matter.
According to Bowden, the number of big plays Clemson produces will determine
the outcome of the game.


Mississippi State's defense is ranked No. 1 in rushing defense and total
defense. The Bulldogs give up just 66.9 yards a game on the ground and 222.5
total yards a game.


Clemson averaged 403.6 yards a game on offense.


"They're probably the most difficult team we've had to prepare for all
year," said Rodriguez. They'll do some stuff throughout the course of the
game that they haven't done this year. We've got to be consistent and drive
the ball on offense. If we can do that and execute, then we've got a chance
to make some plays."


Mississippi State gave up a season-high of 22 points against Kentucky, but
that game film provided few clues on how to move the ball against the
Bulldogs.


"You have to look at some of the points Kentucky scored," said Rodriguez.
"They were give the ball on the one yard line one time. Thirteen or 17
points were basically gifts. Kentucky only had 176 yards of offense."


Mississippi State's defense is a gambling defense, according to Bowden.


"Big plays are what beats a defense like that," he said. "Anytime you blitz
and play man coverage, if you break a tackle you can make a big play. If
nobody makes a big play, then we'll struggle."


FUTURE IS BRIGHT -
It will be hard for Bowden to downplay the expectations of the team going
into next season.


A win over Mississippi State will leave him with on shaky ground if he tries
to downplay those expectations next summer. Clemson will return eight
starters on offense and eight on defense.


The eight starters on offense will have a year of experience with Rodriguez'
offense.


"We've got some confidence," said Rodriguez. "If we can move the ball
against Mississippi State, it will give us more confidence going into next
season."


Bowden doesn't want to think about next season for a while.


"I'll talk about it in the summer. I'm not worried about that now," he said.


Still, he knows there's a reason that a 6-5 team nearly sold out the Georgia
Dome by itself.


"I think people understand the circumstances," said Bowden. "This is a real
young team. The strength is schedule is obvious. We lost some pretty good
players from last year - nearly all the offensive line and all of the
kicking game. The change in style of offense - they like that. Then to
escape with a winning record and a bowl game. I think people know where the
ship is headed."

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