Tigers Take Their Show on the Road
Keith Kelly and the Tiger freshmen will go on the road for the first time Saturday against UVA.
CLEMSON, SC - When Clemson entertained Virginia in week two of the 1999 season,
it was a coming-out party of sorts for the Tigers.
The 33-14 victory was the first of the Tommy Bowden era at CU. It marked the
Tigers first win over a Top-25 team (UVa came in at No. 19) in Death Valley
since 1996. The win provided the first glimpse of how effective the spread
offense can be, as Clemson rolled up a total of 447 yards.
Saturday's matchup with the Cavaliers (3:30 p.m., ABC regional telecast)
will be a coming-out party, as well. No. 11 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast
Conference) will be coming out of Memorial Stadium for the first time in
2000 when it travels to Charlottesville.
And waiting will be a physical Virginia (2-1, 1-0 ACC) team with upset and
an early-season share of the league lead on its mind.
"I look at this as an extremely difficult task," Bowden said of the impeding
trip at Tuesday's weekly football press conference. "Just look at the
history of the game in the last 10 years and their success against Clemson.
And in that environment, with the addition of the stadium, noise.. it's
become a really good football environment."
Indeed, Clemson has had its hands full with the Cavs since 1990. Virginia
snapped a 29-game losing streak to CU with a 20-7 win over the Tigers in
Charlottesville during the '90 campaign. Since then, UVa is 5-4-1 against
Clemson. Add the fact that Saturday is homecoming at newly-renovated Scott
Stadium and is the ACC home-opener (the Cavs have won 13 consecutive league
home-openers) for Virginia, and you can see the cause for concern.
For Clemson's offense, there's added concern.
"A lot of the guys that are contributing a lot this year have never played
in any stadium but Death Valley," Will Merritt said. "So, a lot of guys are
going to have to step up to the plate and meet the challenge, because this
is by far the best defense that we've faced thus far in this season."
Virginia's defense is led by a pair of fast, physical linebackers in All-ACC
candidate Byron Thweat (6-foot-2, 235-pound senior) and Yubrenal Isabelle
(6-1, 237 senior).
But it's a challenge Merritt, who will start at left guard in place of the
injured Jermyn Chester, relishes.
"I love it. I absolutely love it," he said when asked if playing on the road
provides extra motivation. "There's nothing like playing here in Death
Valley. There's no other atmosphere in the world like playing in front of
75-80,000 people here cheering for you. But, there's something uniquely
special about going somewhere where you're hated by 60,000 people. I don't
know what it is about it, but I think it gets a lot of players' motor
"I look forward to it."