Tigers Come Full Circle in Winston-Salem


by - Correspondent -
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It was perhaps the most humbling day in Tommy Bowden's
coaching career. While the scoreboard clock ran down to zero, chants of
"FIRE TOMMY" echoed over and over again throughout Wake Forest's Grove
Stadium.


Clemson was just handed its worst defeat ever by Wake Forest, 45-17, and the
several thousand or so Tiger fans in attendance on November 1, 2003, wanted
to let Bowden know their discontent.


"That is part of the profession," said Bowden earlier this week. "It was the
first time I ever experienced that."


But what happened in the few minutes following that humiliating experience
is legendary.


"I remember there were a lot of sad and long faces," said Clemson cornerback
Tye Hill. "A lot of us were confused, like me. I didn't know what was going
on."


With his team unsure of themselves, Bowden addressed them very briefly, and
told them what he expected of them the next week. What he expected? A win
over Florida State.


"He said what he needed to say and he was done with it," Hill remembered.
"He left us with that and it was up to us to respond."


The Tigers responded with a 26-10 victory over the powerful Noles,
launching perhaps the biggest turnaround in the program's storied history.
Clemson followed with victories over Duke, South Carolina and Tennessee to
close the season.


"It has been a while since I thought about that," said quarterback Charlie
Whitehurst. "After (the Wake Forest game) it did get bad, but what more can
I say. It turned out OK."


Hill says he remembers the week leading up to the Florida State game and the
uncertainty surrounding his head coach the rest of the season. Was Bowden
out? Is he going to get fired? Will he quit?


"A lot of things were going on after that because the media was saying
things like Coach Bowden might be fired at the end of the year and those
kind of things," said Hill. "But then after that we went on that winning
streak."


"In a way, I thank Wake Forest. They really opened our eyes and we came
together as a team and we became one. Hopefully, this loss against Boston
College will spark us as a team and we can finish the rest of the season
undefeated."


This brings the story full circle. Similar to his post game speech at Wake
Forest, Bowden again challenged another one of his teams. In not so many
words, he told his players following the Boston College loss, to put it out
of their minds, go out and beat Wake Forest and become the great team he
knows they can be.


"I would say the since of urgency is high with this team right now," Hill
said. "We need to get a win anyway we can get it. I think everybody
understands that from the freshmen on up to the seniors and of course the
coaching staff."


Which is why the players say fans shouldn't worry about any let down this
week. Hungry for a third win, plus the fact knowing what Wake Forest is
capable of doing will allow the Demon Deacons to have the Tigers' full
attention.


"As time has progressed, Wake Forest was a good team and I think we went in
there not really understanding what we were about to get ourselves into and
they really embarrassed us." said Hill. "By far, that was one of the worse
losses I have suffered since I have been here. The other being Duke."


"You can't take anything away from them because they are good athletes and
they have good running backs with (Chirrs) Barclay and this new kid they
have. They know how to get their running backs the ball and let them make
plays."


On TV- For those Clemson fans who have Dish Network, they will be able to
watch the Tigers face Wake Forest today at 3:30 p.m. Earlier this week, Dish
Network announced that it added ESPNU to its lineup on channel 148. The
all-college sports channel is also available on Direct TV 609.


New guard- Offensive lineman Roman Fry will start at left guard and Nathan
Bennett will move to right guard for today's game at Wake Forest. Guard
Brandon Pilgrim is nursing a shoulder injury, but he is expected to play.
Chris McDuffie is out with a calf injury.


Chason to stay at punter- Punter Cole Chason will keep his starting job for
at least another week, but Bowden says he pull the junior if he struggles
today. Walk-on Jimmy Maners, who has improved his get-off time, will play
if that happens. Bowden said Maners has punted the ball better than Chason,
but he is concerned with his lack of experience.

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