Tigers Look to Keep Same Intensity Against La Tech


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - A week ago Clemson was preparing to open the 2002 season on the
road against No. 8 Georgia in a game played on national television before a
sellout crowd of over 86,500.


Needless to say emotions ran high, and the Tigers played inspired football
most of the evening before falling short at the end, 31-28. The intensity,
especially on defense, reminded some veteran Clemson fans of the glory days
of the 1980s.

The question today is this:

Will Clemson (0-1) have the same emotion, the same intensity, the same desire
it displayed a week ago when kickoff rolls around at 1 p.m. today in the
non-televised home opener against Louisiana Tech before a crowd not expected
to top 72,000?

Head coach Tommy Bowden hopes so.

"That is the biggest thing about this sport," he said. "You better be at an
emotional peak every Saturday regardless of the competition. I was talking
with the team and made them aware that East Carolina lost to Duke (and)
Kentucky upset Louisville.

"The point being you better be ready from week to week, especially with a
team like
(La. Tech). If they get behind, their offense is tailor-made to come from
behind."

The Bulldogs enter Death Valley today fresh off proving Bowden's point.

Trailing 36-18 late in the third quarter last week against Oklahoma State,
quarterback Luke McCown went on passing frenzy that, once it was over,
totaled 448 yards and led to a stunning 39-36 La.Tech comeback victory.
McCown, who some are pushing as a possible Heisman candidate, seemingly is at
his best when adversity is at its highest.

Then, of course, there is the Humanitarian Bowl factor to consider.

The Bulldogs are still smarting from the 49-24 loss last December in Boise,
Idaho. Making matters worse, there remain lingering bad feelings between the
schools after La. Tech head coach Jack Bicknell III voiced his displeasure at
the Tigers' attempts to score again as time expired.

Though he has backpedalled from his postgame rhetoric then, Bicknell and his
team no doubt have used the incident as bulletin board material for today's
game.

"I would too," Bowden said earlier this week. "I'd probably have made the
same comments had I been in his situation."

Ultimately, though, once the early emotion subsides, today's matchup should
come down to a battle of defenses. Which unit can stop the other?

That, in a nutshell, probably decides today's winner.

In Boise, Clemson riddled La. Tech's defense with a succession of big plays,
both in the passing game and the running game. Four consecutive scores in the
third quarter broke the game wide open.

Meanwhile, then defensive coordinator Reggie Herring adopted a 3-4 scheme
that gave him an extra athlete at the linebacker spot to help cover La.
Tech's four wide receiver offense. The change paid huge dividends, as Clemson
intercepted McCown three times, had six sacks and held him to just 188
passing yards through three quarters.

Whether a similar plan is on tap from new defensive coordinator John Lovett
remains to be seen, but Bowden was pleased with the defense's performance
against Georgia a week ago and expects that effort to carry over.

"I thought the defense played real well," he said. "I don't think we gave up
any big plays. We played very aggressively and intense the whole game. There
was really good effort from sideline to sideline. I thought that was pretty
indicative."

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