The expectations have been made clear for Saturday. Head coach Tommy Bowden rang the bell on Tuesday at his press conference and challenged his team and fans to answer it. It was not typical of Bowden, but it was appropriate.
Coach Bowden is preparing his team for the biggest home game in eight years. It will be #20 versus #13 on Saturday, and both schools battling to stay in the race for the ACC title. Miami is coming into Clemson after a week off following a loss to Florida State. A second loss and the Hurricanes will be in big trouble.
There is very little question that the Hurricanes will present the biggest challenge of the 2005 season for the Tigers. They have not sent a record number of players to the NFL recently by being a six win program. Miami expects championships every year, and the truth is that Clemson is fighting to be where Miami is.
In order for Clemson to reach that level, the defense must answer the bell on Saturday. Through the first two games, the defense has made a play when they had to. Against Miami that may not cut it. The reasons for the play of the defense has been laid out, but none of that will matter on Saturday. Young, inexperienced, whatever the case may be, Clemson knows the hand it has to work with on Saturday.
This defense is capable of playing better, and the coaches know it. Heading into the season the concern was against the run, well Coach Bowden and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says the run defense has been fine. Now, the pressure is on the pass defense. Miami will look to use its talented wide receivers and tight ends early and often. This will be the biggest test for the defense, but it will have its home crowd behind them.
Miami quarterback Kyle Wright will be making his second career start on Saturday. Wright has not seen an atmosphere like he will see on Saturday. Doak Campbell was difficult because of the caliber of defense. On Saturday, Wright will find out what crowd noise really is. Coach Bowden challenged the fans to be as loud as possible when Miami has the ball.
“I think it is going to be important that our crowd be a factor in this game,” said Bowden. “I want to encourage the crowd to make it extremely difficult (for Miami).”
The last two years, Clemson has made big strides towards putting the “Death” back in Death Valley. Saturday afternoon will be a chance to announce to the nation that the “Death” is officially back in Death Valley.