Two Plays Signaled Things To Come For Tigers


by - Correspondent -
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COLUMBIA - Lack of execution on a pair of first-half passes proved critical in the Tigers' 20-15 loss Saturday at South Carolina.

Gamecocks' cornerback Sheldon Brown's interceptions of Woody Dantzler cost the Tigers a shot at anywhere from 7 to 14 points in the grand scheme of things, points which Clemson would have cherished after falling behind 20-9 early in the fourth quarter.

Afterwards, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden tried to downplay the interceptions.

"I don't know if anything that happens in the first quarter or first half is going to determine the outcome of a game," he said. "(The interceptions) were big, but I don't think they cost us the game. I thought the third quarter was more critical."

Clemson's offense was on the field for just six plays in the third quarter, allowing USC's running game to take control of matters and extend what was a 10-9 lead to 20-9 by the time less than four minutes were gone in the fourth.

But if Dantzler and the offense convert either or both of the Brown interceptions, the outlook could have been strikingly different:

- On fourth-and-one from his own 43 and leading 6-0, Bowden called for a play-action pass to Travis Zachery over the middle. The play appeared to be beautifully conceived, as Zachery broke open behind the linebackers.

But Dantzler underthrew the ball slightly, allowing Brown to dash over from his cornerback position and intercept the pass. A little more air under the ball and Zachery scores easily for a 13-0 lead.

"We tried to throw it downfield and it didn't work out," Bowden said. "That's the kind of play you can only call maybe twice a year. We had it, we just didn't hit it."

- Down 10-9 and facing third-and-10 from the USC 30, Dantzler underthrew Bailey on a fade route in the corner of the end zone. If the throw is just a touch deeper and over the outside shoulder, only Bailey can catch it.

If he doesn't, Clemson at least has Hunt on to attempt a 47-yard field goal. Hunt was 8-10 on field goal attempts coming into the game with a season-long of 48 yards.

"You try to get the ball up on the outside shoulder a little bit," said offensive coordinator Brad Scott. "They made a good play on it. It was a little bit underthrown, possibly, but I think the fade at the end of the game (37-yard pass to J.J. McKelvey on Clemson's final scoring drive in the fourth quarter) was underthrown and he caught it.

"Sometimes on the goal line that's the perfect throw. Credit their corner for making a good play."

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