CLEMSON -- There's a simple game that Clemson defensive tackle DaMonte McKenzie plays with the other defensive tackle Terry Bryant.
McKenzie calls it "meet me at the quarterback."
The game comes in handy in the fourth quarter when both are tired and looking for a way to get through the game and also get into the offensive backfield.
"We try to do it when we're real tired," said McKenzie. "We did it in practice this week. It works well."
How well it will work Saturday night against Marshall (6 p.m.) remains to be seen. Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington arrives at Death Valley with Heisman
Trophy hopes. He's got an Internet web site (herdqb.com) full of stats. The stats are impressive.
He set an NCAA record for touchdown passes by a sophomore in 1997. He had more yards passing, more touchdown passes and less interceptions than any of the other quarterbacks that were Heisman finalists last season.
Pennington (6-4, 220) is looking at tonight as his chance to prove his worth. The Thundering Herd plays in the Mid American Conference, an underrated conference according to Marshall coach Bob Pruett. "We do have some good teams in our conference that can compete nationally," he told the
Anderson Independent-Mail earlier this week. "I felt that last year Miami and Toledo deserved bowl recognition."
Still, the fact remains that Pennington will be largely judged in the minds of Heisman voters on how well he does tonight. "I can only play against the teams that are scheduled," he said. "It bugs me a little, but it's also a
challenge. It makes me want to prove myself against the bigger schools." Pennington isn't mobile. That's where McKenzie and Bryant have opportunities. Pennington is confident, though. Confident enough to sit in the pocket until the last possible moment.
"He's not real mobile, but he's got a great arm and he's a great quarterback," said McKenzie. "He sits back there with confidence. Forcing him to run will be the best thing."
Clemson's defense gave up 216 yards a game passing last season, middle of the pack in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Staring cornerback Dextra Polite wouldn't be surprised if Pennington tests the Clemson secondary immediately.
"If he throws a deep ball immediately, I wouldn't be surprised," he said. "I think we've matured a lot in the corner spots. I watch the receivers now more than I do the quarterback. We're going to be prepared for whatever
Like last year, the first team secondary is experienced. However, past the first team there are questions. True freshman Brian Mance backs up Polite. Chad Speck, who played sparingly last season, backs up free safety Robery
Carswell. Strong safety Domarco Fox, who has missed practice due to a sprained ankle, is backed up by Charles Hafley and cornerback Alex Ardley is backed up by Darrel Crutchfield. Neither Crutchfield nor Hafley played a
significant role last season.
"Nothing beats experience," said McKenzie. "We've also got inexperience at linebacker and there will be jitters when they take their first hits, but they'll be ready."