Tigers Confident of Reversing Thursday Night Trend

by - Correspondent -
Senior wide-receiver Jacoby Ford says he is looking for some redemption on Thursday after not playing well in his last trip to Atlanta.

CLEMSON -- Thursday night football games have not been kind to the Clemson Tigers.

Former head coach Tommy Bowden’s record on Thursday was 2-7, with some ugly losses on the road to Virginia Tech and Florida State. Since 1991, the Tigers have played on ESPN’s Thursday night college football game ten times. The teams’ record is 2-8 in those games.

The Tigers’ opponent this Thursday is the 15th-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and their unconventional triple-option offensive scheme. The game is being played in Bobby Dodd Stadium – capacity 55,000 – in downtown Atlanta. Kick-off is set for 7:45 p.m.

Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney and his team are looking forward to playing a Thursday night game to showcase the team’s talent in a big rivalry game against a tough Yellow Jacket team. This is the Tigers only appearance on Thursday night this season.

“It doesn’t get much better than this to have an opportunity to play and showcase your program on national television,” Swinney said at the ACC weekly coaches’ press conference Tuesday. “It is exciting. This is what you play for and coach for.”

Heading into the game this week, there has been some concern over the health of Tigers senior running back C.J. Spiller. At a press conference in Clemson Tuesday, Spiller put the injury talk to bed saying he is “very” confident he will be ready to play Thursday.

The hamstring and toe injuries Spiller sustained early in Saturday’s win over Middle Tennessee will not be a factor in Thursday night’s game, Spiller said.

“Practice was good Monday,” he said. “It felt good getting back out there and running around. Making the cuts, that’s the main thing. I do so much cutting; I’m going to need that strength. I was able to do all that. I still accelerate the way I need to do.”

Spiller says the team is excited about the opportunity to play on Thursday night, understands the importance of the game and is prepared to play a tough ACC opponent on the road.

“We understand that everyone is going to be watching, it’s the only game on TV,” he said. “It’s very important for both teams. It’s an ACC game. It’s going to be a tough task and I think our team is mature enough and knows how to handle certain situations.”

The Tigers’ maturity and talents will be tested against Georgia Tech’s strong defense and unique offense.

“That is just a good rivalry,” Swinney said. “We are just a hop-skip-and-jump away from each other. A lot of these kids have been in tight games with them. That is pretty interesting, 10 out of last 13 games have been by five points or less. It is just a good college matchup.”

Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson also knows the importance of this game and the importance of controlling Spiller as well as the Tiger’s other explosive weapons on offensive.

“On offense they have (C.J.) Spiller, who can go the distance any time he touches the ball,” Johnson said. “They have Jacoby Ford at receiver and some big running backs as well. I thought their freshman quarterback really handled himself well for his first game. It will be a formidable challenge for us this week.”

Johnson understands that playing on a Thursday night is a great opportunity for both programs to gain national exposure.

“The thing about the Thursday night games is that unlike Saturday games, you are about IT,” Johnson said. “If anybody is watching they are probably watching your game. You get a lot of good exposure.”

Johnson said he expects his team to play well “because there is a lot riding on the game. Even though it is not a divisional game it is our first conference game. You want to get off to a good start if you can.”

Senior wide-receiver Jacoby Ford said the Tigers are calm and relaxed about playing on the road and playing on a Thursday night.

“I wouldn’t even say there’s any pressure on us,” Ford said. “We know that last time we went down there we didn’t play well at all. I’m looking at it as kind of like redeeming myself. The wide-outs, we definitely didn’t have a good outing last time at that game down at Georgia Tech. We had a lot of drops. The offense didn’t play well. Defense played well enough to win the game. Special teams didn’t do well at all. We’re going down there with a little chip on our shoulder. Go down there and just play our game, play Clemson football the way we know we can play.”

Ford said he expects freshman quarterback Kyle Parker to continue to play well, even under the spotlight of a nationally televised game.

“Kyle is a very calm and relaxed dude,” Ford said. “For a freshman, that kid has got a lot of poise on him. Nothing seems to really rattle him at all. I really like that about him. I think he’s going to put our offense in the right position to make the right plays and hopefully we get out of there with a win.”

Clemson players and coaches expect a sellout at Bobby Dodd Stadium and for the Yellow Jackets to be amped up for Thursday night’s game.

They also expect a much different outcome this go around in Atlanta.

“This is a different team,” Ford said. “We have way more chemistry than we’ve had before. This whole senior class grew up around each other. We’ve went through ups and our downs.

Everybody knows what they have to do to get the job done. Everybody is going to be looking to see if this Clemson team is for real. That’s one thing we want to answer a lot of questions with everybody. We are contenders for the ACC.”

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