Tigers Prove to be the Better Orange in Peach Bowl

by - Correspondent -

ATLANTA - For those wondering if Clemson could keep up its late-season momentum despite a 41-day layoff, the answer was a resounding yes. The Tigers' won the battle for orange supremacy in the 2004 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, riding an unlikely rushing performance from senior Chad Jasmin and a bend-but-don't-break defensive effort to a 27-14 victory over No. 6 Tennessee Friday in Atlanta. The victory was Clemson's (9-4) fourth straight to end the season, its second win over a top six team in that span, and the second bowl victory in head coach Tommy Bowden's five-year tenure. "Any situation like this you never know how team is going to respond," Bowden said of the month-plus layoff. But the seniors did what they've done last 3-4 weeks, week to week keeping focus of the team. "The success (Tennessee) had under coach (Phillip) Fulmer is substantial. We haven't experienced that, for one reason or another. This shows we're heading in the right direction." A Georgia Dome-record crowd of 75,125 watched Jasmin, playing the final game of his Clemson career, run for 130 yards and a first-half touchdown. He also had a series of big runs on Clemson's final scoring drive of the evening, helping burn more than seven minutes off the game clock before Aaron Hunt kicked a 28-yard field goal with 1:23 left in the game. It was the only 100-yard rushing performance of Jasmin's career, and was good enough to earn him the award for the game's Outstanding Offensive Player. "When the running opportunities are there, if you can't take advantage of them you're in trouble," Bowden said. "The line did a good job, but Chad ran over some people and through some people. That can demoralize a defense and can motivate a team. He's done that for about the last year and a half." Jasmin, for his part, was more concerned about the future of the Clemson program than his day in the sun. "Tennessee's the No. 6 team," he said. "This was a big win for us. Hopefully this will put us into the top 20 and we can go out and get better recruits." Jasmin's running, and a solid - if not spectacular - performance by quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (22-of-40, 246 yards, one interception) allowed the Tigers to overcome a valiant effort by Tennessee (10-3) quarterback Casey Clausen. Also in the final game of his career, Clausen threw for 384 yards (31-of-55) and a pair of first half touchdowns - 19 yards to Chris Hannon and 30 yards to Mark Jones. Each of the scores brought the Volunteers to within three points and kept matters close in the first half. Clausen was sacked six times for 43 yards in losses, but was able to scramble out of trouble at least half a dozen other times to keep plays alive and keep his offense on the field. But Clemson was able to make enough plays defensively to keep the Vols off the scoreboard the rest of the game. Of course, Tennessee didn't help matters by committing 119 yards in penalties, including a number of major 15 yarders. And, beyond Clausen, the Vols could muster nothing else which resembled a threat. Tennessee rushed for 38 yards on 26 carries, compared to 153 for Clemson. "We had four or five major penalties in the second half," said Fulmer. "That's my responsibility. We didn't play as well as we can, and they ran the ball better than I thought they would against us." Tennessee had a golden opportunity to again pull within three points late in the third quarter and perhaps steal the momentum from Clemson once and for all. But a 17 play, 62-yard drive that chewed up more than eight minutes off the clock, ended in a virtual disaster. On the 16th play - third-and-two from the Clemson 3-yard line - Clausen appeared to hit Mark Jones with a scoring pass in the back of the end zone. But the back judge ruled the ball hit the ground, negating the touchdown. In its protest of the call, Tennessee was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that had it facing fourth-and-17 from the Clemson 18. The penalty proved to be huge, because instead of a 21-yard field goal attempt - basically an extra point - James Wilhoit was faced with a 36-yarder. Still a makable field goal, to be sure, but Wilhoit pulled it wide right. Clemson also squandered an opportunity a few series later, allowing a drive aided by consecutive 15-yard penalties on the Volunteers to be wasted when Hunt missed a 19-yard field goal with 9:27 left in the game. But Tennessee was forced to punt on its next possession, and that's when the Tigers responded with the final drive - culminated by the Hunt 28-yarder - that put away the game. "Most teams are like us and Tennessee," Bowden said. "We anticipated man-free and they played zone. That gave us running opportunities, so we ran Chad. Then they blitzed, and we made some plays in the passing game. "You go into a game like a chess game, and hopefully you execute the adjustments. Today we executed the adjustments." Clemson's other first half touchdowns came on an eight-yard run by Duane Coleman, and on the game's most unique play - a hybrid of the fumblerooski in which Whitehurst, taking the snap from a closed, bunch formation, slipped the ball forward between the legs of Kyle Browning. While Whitehurst and most of the offense went right, Browning went left and made it to the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown.


Clemson 10 14 0 3 - 27 Tennessee 7 7 0 0 - 14

First Quarter Clem-Coleman 8 run (Hunt kick), 12:50. Clem-FG Hunt 23, 3:48. Ten-Hannon 19 pass from Clausen (Wilhoit kick), :06.

Second Quarter Cle-Jasmin 15 run (Hunt kick), 13:11. Ten-Jones 30 pass from Clausen (Wilhoit kick), 8:19. Clem-Browning 8 run (Hunt kick), 5:36.

Fourth Quarter Clem-FG Hunt 28, 1:23.


                          Clem     Ten
 First downs                25      28
 Rushes-yards           34-153   26-38
 Passing                   246     384
 Comp-Att-Int          22-40-1 31-56-0
 Return Yards               67       5
 Punts-Avg.             5-42.0  8-39.0
 Fumbles-Lost              1-0     1-1
 Penalties-Yards          6-45  10-119
 Time of Possession      27:51   32:09

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING-Clemson, Jasmin 15-130, Hamilton 4-23, Browning 1-8, Coleman 8-4, Whitehurst 6-(minus 12). Tennessee, Houston 6-24, Riggs 2-10, Fleming 4-6, Davis 1-6, Clausen 12-2, Banks 1-(minus 10).

PASSING-Clemson, Whitehurst 22-40-1-246. Tennessee, Clausen 31-55-0-384, team 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING-Clemson, Hamilton 5-69, Currie 5-50, Coleman 4-17, Youngblood 3-64, Baham 2-25, Williamson 1-13, Hall 1-9, Browning 1-(minus 1). Tennessee, Fleming 6-54, Jones 5-66, Hannon 4-57, Banks 3-37, Fayton 3-34, Swain 3-18, Brown 2-48, Smith 2-45, Houston 2-18, Revill 1-7.

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