CLEMSON - As the confidence of Clemson's offense continues to grow, much of
the fan and media attention continues to point to Charlie Whitehurst.
The redshirt freshman quarterback has thrown for 694 yards and eight
touchdowns in his first two starts - both victories - since taking over for
Willie Simmons. The Tigers' once dormant offense has combined for 76 points
in those games, including a 42-14 win Saturday at North Carolina.
But head coach Tommy Bowden, while acknowledging Whitehurst's obvious
contribution to the offensive success, is quick to point out the youngster
has had plenty of help.
"He's one piece of the puzzle," Bowden said Sunday during his regular
teleconference. "We've had one game (Duke) where it was passing that played
the major role and one game where it was running. I think (the offense's)
confidence has increased due to a bunch of things happening.
"It's more a combination of things, but he's a piece of that combination."
Still, there's no denying the jumpstart Whitehurst has provided the Clemson
The 76 points generated by the Tigers during his two starts represent the
best back-to-back game output this season. Besides setting school records for
single game passing yards (420), completions (34), total plays (65) - and
tying the mark for most TD passes in a game with four in each start -
Whitehurst has provided other, more subtle help for the offense.
Most noticeable has been his presence in the pocket.
Where Simmons appeared to get gun shy over the course of his last few starts,
leaving the pocket and running at the first sign of pressure, Whitehurst has
shown the ability to hang in until the final second if necessary, allowing
his receivers the most time possible to clear their routes.
The result? More big plays, such as the 83-yard touchdown pass to Airese
Currie Saturday, or the 47-yarder to Currie on fourth-and-10 in the fourth
quarter against Duke a week earlier.
"Confidence comes with having success," Bowden said. "When you win confidence
is elevated. We've had close to 1,000 yards of offense in the last two games,
so the confidence level comes from there. It comes from scoring points,
moving the chains, making first downs and making throws and catches."
It also doesn't hurt that your opponents have just four victories between
Clemson's - and Whitehurst's - success has come against the cellar-dwellers
in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a point Bowden acknowledged. Perhaps the
schedule broke just right, providing Bowden the perfect spot to make the
quarterback change and break in Whitehurst under less-than top flight
But that changes this week when Maryland - newly ranked at No. 19 and winners
of seven straight - comes calling.
"We need to beat a ranked team this year," Bowden said. "It's something you
eventually need to do, and we'd like to do it."
Other notes from the weekend
*top tackler off the coaches film was John Leake with 13. He wa sthe
only player in double figures. Rodney thomas had eight, including a
sack, while Altroy Bodrick had seven.
*Clemson had eight tackles for loss and six total sacks, a season
high for sacks.
*Charlie Whitehurst had a passing efficiency rating of 241.1 in
Saturday's win at North Carolina, a Clemson record for a minimum of
20 attempts. He now has nine touchdown passes for the year, a
freshman. Ironically, he broke the record of eight set by Willie
Simmons in 2000.
*Whitehurst now has a passing efficiency rating of 161.9 for the
season. That would be second in the nation if he had enough games
played to qualify. Even if he plays the rest of the games he will
never appear in the NCAA stats this year. He has played just six of
the 10 games. A player must play in 75 percent of a team's games to
qualify for the NCAA stat rankings.