CLEMSON, SC -- Football is fun again in Death Valley.
For the past three weeks the scene on the Clemson sideline has resembled a giant party. Players dance, wave towels, hug, laugh and celebrate like a group of long-time friends having the times of their lives.
“This is as close as we’ve been as a team since I’ve been here,” says senior safety Robert Carswell. “We’re one heartbeat and that’s the fact I’m proudest of.”
Without a doubt, “One Heartbeat” is the catchphrase most repeated in the Clemson locker room this year. While the Tigers worked to better themselves on the field in the off-season, perhaps the greatest change in the Clemson locker room this year can be found in a overall sense of team cohesiveness that wasn’t always present in 1999.
“We just go out there and just try and play with great emotion and congratulate our teammates when they make good plays,” says Keith Adams. “We’re just trying to be a great unit.”
“We sat down before the season and looked at ourselves in the mirror,” junior tailback Travis Zachery says. “We set goals of our own to improve by each individual doing the little things we had to do to get better. It’s been real fun.”
The result has been arguably the fastest start in Clemson football history. The Tigers have produced 1562 yards and 155 points in three games while holding opponents to 480 yards and 16 points. Even hypercritical head coach Tommy Bowden has struggled to find fault in the team’s performance thus far.
“I’m really pleased so far. We’re probably a little ahead of schedule,” Bowden says. “The key is that I thought last year we weren’t very consistent. The offense would play good one game and the defense wouldn’t or vice versa. So far (in 2000) we’ve been consistent on both sides of the ball. We’re doing what a good team should do at this point."
BREAKOUT DAY FOR YOUNG BACKS- Bowden has preached the importance of depth since his arrival at Clemson and it appears that he’s found it in the Tiger’s offensive backfield. Freshman Keith Kelly followed up a two-touchdown performance against Missouri with 93 yards on 16 carries against Wake Forest. When asked after the game if he thought he would be contributing to the Clemson offense so early in his career the Walterboro native smiled sheepishly.
“To tell the truth, no, but when the opportunity is there you’ve got to take it,” said Kelly. “It means that the coaches have faith in me and I’ve got to do it to the best of my abilities.”
Bernard Rambert, another product of the South Carolina Lowcountry, also had a big day against the Demon Deacons with a pair of 13-yard touchdown bursts.
“We all know we’re not going to have great individual stats so we just go in there and give our best,” the Summerville sophomore said of the Tiger’s three-pronged running attack of Zachery, Kelly, and himself. “It’s more of a group-type effort so we’re not really worried about stats or anything.”
“I have no doubt they’re going to go in there and get the job done,” Zachery said of his two young protégés. “Bernard and Keith are going to be great players here.”