ATLANTA, GA- If total yardage was any indication, it would appear that Clemson dominated Mississippi State in Thursday night’s Peach Bowl. Unfortunately for the Tigers, out-gaining an opponent by 126-yards doesn’t always insure a victory.
Turnovers coupled with poor red-zone execution doomed Clemson as the Tiger offense continually sputtered inside the Bulldog’s 20-yard line. In the first half alone, Clemson drove deep into Mississippi State territory three times and came away with nothing, with two interceptions and a blocked field goal attempt killing the Tiger’s chances.
“Six turnovers is what I believe we had for the game. You’re not going to beat anybody regardless of how good or bad they are with six turnovers,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden.
“When you play a good defense you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities. We moved the ball until we got down there (the red zone), and when you get down there against that good of a defense you better get points.”
The Tigers’ frustration showed in the first half with members of the offense exchanging heated words on the Clemson sideline.
“We were beating them in every offensive category in the first half and tempers flared. When you get down inside the twenty two or three times and you can’t put it in everybody wants to point fingers at somebody but there’s nobody to point fingers at beside yourself and the whole team,” said offensive guard T.J. Watkins.
Despite the loss, Bowden was upbeat when reflecting on a season that saw the Tigers double their win total from the previous year.
“I didn’t want a win or a loss to tarnish what they’ve accomplished. Very seldom do you find a team that’s played 12 games, and we’ve played 12 games, and we were in it until the last minute in every single game. My objective is to get the team to play hard for 60 minutes and then you recruit and elevate the talent level and then you win a bunch of games,” he said.
“This loss doesn’t put a damper on the season,” said Peach Bowl defensive MVP Keith Adams.
“You always hate to lose a game but Coach Bowden is doing a tremendous job with us. He’s showed us that if you believe in him and trust in him he’s going to put you in a position to win, like he did tonight. The next year and the year after I feel like the sky is the limit.”
With 18 starters returning and with seven home games, many Tiger players have already set their sites on 2000 as a breakout year.
“I think we have a lot of promise and a lot of potential for next year and I think the guys all know that. This loss is only going to make us work harder for next year,” said linebacker Chad Carson.