CLEMSON — Since arriving on Clemson's campus 18 months ago, Tommy Bowden has
been telling anyone who would listen he preferred to run the football.
Saturday, Wake Forest — and maybe the entire country — got the message loud
Dispelling the myth that his spread formations equal a pass-happy attack,
Bowden watched gleefully as the Tigers rolled up 436 yards on the ground in
Saturday's 55-7 thrashing of Wake Forest at Death Valley.
The Danny Ford-esque total easily surpassed Clemson's previous rushing high
under Bowden, 290 yards last season vs. Virginia.
"When some of the media sees our offense and sees multiple formations they
think pass offense, but it really isn't," Bowden said. "As I've said several
times we look for running opportunities first, passing opportunities second.
We prefer to run the football."
His preference was easily met Saturday. Led by quarterback Woody Dantzler,
Clemson runners ripped off huge chunks of yardage virtually at will almost
from the opening gun. Dantzler finished with 166 yards and two touchdowns,
getting free on a variety of plays — everything from quarterback draws to
scrambles out of the teeth of the Demon Deacon pass rush.
Not to be outdone, Clemson's three-headed running back monster continued to
impress. Starter Travis Zachery gained 73 yards on 15 carries, but even that
wasn't enough to outdo true freshman Keith Kelly. The Walterboro native
carried the ball 16 times for 93 yards — all in the second half — for an
average of 5.8 yards per carry. And Bernard Rambert got in on the act, as
well, picking up 46 yards on 6 carries (7.7) and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell was among those impressed with Clemson's
"You start spreading out to handle (Clemson's) offense when it's flexed and
they stretch you out past the numbers, and in your mind you're thinking it's
a finesse game," he said. "But they run the ball at you as effectively as any
team that lines up in the I-(formation) and pounds it down your throat. They
do it with backs, quarterback...the whole gamut. They do a nice job."
Dantzler, especially, drew praise from the opposing coach.
"He's just a heck of a player, very tough to handle," Caldwell said. "Often
times you'll find guys as effective as he's been in the passing game, maybe
they don't run very well. But he's just the opposite. He's the prototype
quarterback everyone's looking for, one that throws the ball well, certainly
can operate a complex system, and runs the ball like a tailback.
"As a matter of fact I thought we were playing pretty good defense there for
a while, until he got loose on us."
Meanwhile, Kelly's effectiveness in the second half may have warranted a
promotion of sorts.
"He was injured all preseason," Bowden said. "But you're seeing what he can
do. I think he's earned some playing time earlier in the game."
Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.