ATLANTA (AP) -For Clemson, it's time to recover.
Considered the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference with expectations of a national championship run, the Tigers were humbled by No. 24 Alabama 34-10 on Saturday night and rode home from Georgia searching for answers.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden signed a rich, new contract in the offseason, largely because university leaders saw the Tigers closing in on the big time. But midway through the fourth quarter, most of the orange-clad Tiger fans had left the Georgia Dome with a disappointment they've felt several times during Bowden's 10 seasons.
The coach was surprised how easily Alabama dominated Clemson's offensive and defensive lines - the Tigers managed zero rushing yards compared to the Tide's 239. Still, there's much left for Clemson to achieve and it's Bowden's job to remind his players.
``Let's see how we do at the end of the year,'' Bowden said Sunday. ``We played one game, and it was a big game. We got a few big games left.''
Perhaps none, though, could define the 2008 Tigers as much as this one. Beat all the Dukes, North Carolina States and Citadels you want and it won't wash out the bad taste left from Alabama.
The Tigers have a history of losing in the biggest spots under Bowden. A win over a middle-of-the-pack Maryland in 2006 or Georgia Tech last fall would've put Clemson in the ACC's title game.
Finally, though, Clemson seemed ready to break through this season.
Most of their stars turned down the NFL for a senior shot at success, and all talked about trophies bigger than the conference title. All came up remarkably short against Alabama.
Quarterback Cullen Harper, talked up as a Heisman Trophy contender, didn't throw a TD pass, was sacked three times and got picked off.
The Thunder and Lightning duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller accounted for 20 yards on eight carries.
Clemson's defense was just as sorry. Alabama runners Mark Ingram and Glen Coffee combined for 186 yards. Crimson Tide tight end Nick Walker seemed surprised at how wide open he was in the end zone on his 4-yard TD catch in the second quarter that gave Alabama a 20-3 lead.
``That's because I was,'' Walker said.
There was little for Bowden to do afterward except acknowledge the beatdown, congratulate the Crimson Tide and move on.
He'll tell the Tigers when they meet Monday it was only last fall when Virginia Tech was outmuscled early by national champion LSU, 48-7. ``I think (Tech) finished 11-3 and I think they won the conference last year,'' Bowden said. ``Just talking to your players, you can't quit after one game.''
Bowden's coaching opponent, Alabama's Nick Saban, had his hands full trying to dampen what's sure to be runaway expectations from a fan base eager to ``Roll, Tide, Roll.''
``Our players can enjoy this for 24 hours,'' Saban said. ``But then we still have to prepare for the season.''
For Clemson, that truly starts in two weeks.
The Tigers play against in-state school Citadel, a Football Championship Subdivision team, to start their home season Saturday. Then comes the ACC opener, also at home, against struggling N.C. State, which was defeated 34-0 by South Carolina last Thursday night.
There's another FCS team in South Carolina State and then Maryland before the Tigers' next test, a Thursday night contest Oct. 9 at No. 23 Wake Forest.
``We have to keep fighting this season,'' said Davis, Clemson's senior with a chance at a third 1,000-yard season. ``We still have goals to reach. We still have a chance to go to the ACC championship and the national championship.''
The Tigers have bounced back from ugly looking early blowouts under Bowden before. Clemson opened 2003 with a 30-0 home loss to Georgia, yet finished a 9-4 season that included victories over top-10 teams in Florida State and Tennessee.
Bowden will also challenge his player's pride after the embarrassing defeat.
But how to explain such a poor performance when the Tigers had eight months to prepare?
``You got to take human error into it,'' Bowden said. ``Sometimes you can't predict human error, human psyche.''
Right now, there's no doubt Clemson's psyche is low.
``The biggest thing with all the negative publicity, and rightfully so based on the performance, is I've got to talk to the team not to believe it,'' he said, ``and 'Let's go out and perform.'''

Recent NCAAF Discussions

sun night pro play on Sun, Dec 2016 by Timmy1961
2nd set proplays for sun 12/4 on Sun, Dec 2016 by Timmy1961
staying here nba plays on Sun, Dec 2016 by Timmy1961
Carolina Wise Guy NFL, NBA & CBB Late Picks 12/4 on Sun, Dec 2016 by CarolinaWiseGuy
2nd half plays on Sun, Dec 2016 by Michael Cash
Advertisement
Advertisement

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  
Advertisement

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail CFB Playoff Semifinal Odds The field for the College Football Playoffs is set and the two matchups are as well. Here is a look at the odds for the pair of...
Thumbnail Line Moving in Big Ten Title Game The spread in tonight's Big Ten Championship Game has moved two full points off the original number set by oddsmakers.
Thumbnail Line Moves Again in ACC Title Game The line in the ACC Championship Game between Clemson and Virginia Tech continues to move ahead of tonight's 8:00PM ET kickoff.
Thumbnail Big Ten Championship Prediction When No. 7 Penn State takes on No. 6 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship tonight, which...
Thumbnail ACC Championship Prediction Will No. 3 Clemsonhave any trouble when it takes on No. 23 Virginia Techin the ACC...
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages