Tigers look to reverse losing trend against Wake

by - Correspondent -
Linebacker Chad Carson is third on team
with 11.3 tackles per game and 5th in
the ACC.

CLEMSON, SC - No national television audience. Just over 20,000 fans in the stands. Big-time college football it's not, but Wake Forest has cost at least one Clemson coach his job. Maybe the last two, in fact.

Ken Hatfield had plenty of problems at Clemson. Clemson fans could point to two straight losses to Wake Forest as reasons No. 1 and No. 2 for him to leave.

Tommy West's loss to Wake Forest last year was the beginning of the end. After a 29-19 loss to the Demon Deacons in Death Valley, the questions started about his job security. They never stopped - until he was asked to leave with one game left.

There won't be a big crowd at Wake Forest, but Tommy Bowden knows it's a big game. A loss wouldn't cost him his job. However, he would spend the off-season explaining it.

"Clemson has had three coaches over the past seven years," said Bowden. "Wake Forest has had one."

Wake Forest hasn't had a winning record since the Demon Deacons went 8-4 in 1992.

Bowden knows he needs to take Wake Forest seriously, though. He will find out if his players do. After playing No. 1 Florida State on even terms, travelling to quiet Groves Stadium could put his players to sleep.

"Nothing can compare to having 80,000 people in the stands," said Clemson linebacker Chad Carson. "This is a different type game. It wasn't originally thought they were going to be that good, but they're putting points up on everybody. For us every game is like a play off game. We have to treat it like that."

It's just as big a game for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 4-3, with a 1-3 conference record. They defeated Army, N.C. State, Rutgers and UAB. A loss would effectively end bowl hopes for either team.

Bowden thinks his team shouldn't need a bowl for motivation. A chance of winning more than three games should be enough, he said.

"We're fixing to find out if a chance of winning more than three games this and the chance of winning three out of four to go to a bowl is enough to motivate these guys," said Bowden. "If that doesn't motivate them, then we've got to fix that with recruiting."

In other words, a loss might not cost him his job - it might cost a player his job, though. Woody Dantzler knows what will happen if Clemson worries too much about what might have been against Florida State.

"If you dwell on the past, it might come back to haunt you," said quarterback Woody Dantzler. "Things happen for a reason. There's nothing you can do about it now."
Wake Forest has a solid defense and an offense that relies on the running game. Both could spell trouble for Clemson, even if the Tigers come in mentally prepared.

"We know that preparation is the biggest part of the game," said cornerback Dextra Polite. "Practice makes the game easy. You know they're going to play smash-mouth football. We have to be responsible and do our part in the game."

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