CLEMSON --- There is perhaps no game more unpredictable than a college football game. The momentum shifts are fast and the ball generally can bounce anyway on any given play.
With this thought in mind, the Clemson Tigers (3-3) aren’t taking any chances this Saturday when they play host to the 0-7 Temple Owls in Death Valley.
“We can’t take them lightly,” said Clemson cornerback Tye Hill on Tuesday. “Football is a game that is very unpredictable. The only thing that matters is to get a win. That’s it. That’s the bottom line.”
But players cannot help but wonder what they can and can’t do against a team like Temple. The Owls are being outscored by an average of 47-9 in their first seven games, including giving up 63 points or more in three of those games.
“It’s a chance for us to help our stats, I guess,” said offensive tackle Barry Richardson. “If we can get on up on them a little bit, it will give us a chance to work on areas of the game that maybe we are weak at.”
Temple ranks 106 out of 117 teams nationally in rushing offense, 108th in passing offense, 115th in total offense, 115th in scoring offense, 93rd in rushing defense, 115th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in total defense and 115th in scoring defense.
“So what,” said quarterback Charlie Whitehurst about the Tigers’ opportunity to put up big numbers. “A win is a win. It’s not worth two wins if you win by fifty points. Yeah, you want to play good on both sides of the ball, and yeah you want to win convincingly, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t get two wins for a big win.”
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden says he has been in the business too long to put an emphasis on how many points he thinks his team should win by when playing teams of lesser talent or ability. He says he isn’t shooting for any style points and he doesn’t worry himself about what fans and media think. His only worry is to win, whether it’s by 50 points or 1 point.
“I’m going to approach the team to play our best game,” Bowden said. “We are going to play our best game regardless of the competition.
“We’ve played at a high level of intensity in every game this season and there is no reason to think we will do any different in this game.”
It appears Bowden has gotten through to his team about this week’s game. Despite the fact the Tigers are a 37-point favorite by the odds makers, they are approaching the Temple game the same way they did Miami, Boston College and Texas A&M.
“I believe we can’t take them lightly, and I believe some of the other guys do too,” Whitehurst said. “Those guys are capable of winning the game if we go out there and mess around.
“So we would like to go out there, start fast, put some points up, and win the football game.”
Temple has struggled to do much of anything this year. The offense is averaging just 235 yards a game, while the defense is giving up 443 yards and 47 points a game. Things have been so bad, the Owls have twice as many turnovers (19) as touchdowns (8).
All of these reasons, plus the fact Temple isn’t playing in a conference, has caused head coach Bobby Wallace to announce he will not return to coach next year.
But as bad as these things are, the Tigers aren’t feeling sorry for them.
“I’m sure it’s tough for them to go through that, but I learned quickly you don’t feel sorry for anybody because you never know,” said Whitehurst. “I don’t feel sorry for them.”
Offensive coordinator Rob Spence is glad to hear Whitehurst and the rest of his teammates aren’t worried about Temple’s struggles, but as a coach he can sympathize with what Wallace and his staff is going through.
“It can be a very difficult life for a coach when you are overmatched so many times in terms of scheduling and all,” he said. “It snowballs. It’s a difficult situation they’re in. Any coach can sympathize with that.”
Whitehurst says games like Temple aren’t usually fun ones to play in because so much is being made about how points they should score and how many points they should win by.
“I guess an outsider might think these games are really fun to play with an opportunity to go out there and win convincingly, but you have to execute,” he said. “You are in a tough situation because you’re supposed to win big. Just a win will be fine for us.”