|Tigers face Boston College with chance at title|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 11 November 2007 14:15|
The Tigers (8-2, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) took a large step toward an ACC championship with a 44-10 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.
It also guaranteed No. 15 Clemson its third straight eight-win season, something the school hadn't accomplished since going six consecutive years with eight or more victories from 1986-91.
``Eight wins gets you eight months of headaches,'' Bowden said. ``That's what it got me.''
Now, Bowden and the Tigers go after something else Clemson used to accomplish yearly during that time 20 years ago - an ACC title.
Next week, the Tigers face No. 18 Boston College (8-2, 4-2). A win would send Clemson to Jacksonville, Fla., for the league's title game next month.
``Next week is as big as it gets,'' Clemson linebacker Cortney Vincent said.
Especially when you think about how close Bowden's teams have come at times to winning their first ACC crown since 1991.
They opened 8-0 in 2000, but lost three of their final four and finished second in the ACC.
Last year, Clemson looked like the class of the conference at 7-1 and No. 10 in the polls. However, the team collapsed losing four of its final five and putting Bowden on the defensive throughout the offseason.
The Tigers faced disappointment again just a month ago, their 4-0 start wiped away after consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
However, this time Clemson didn't give in, winning four straight to get back in the title chase.
Some teams might have hung their heads, pointed fingers and let the season finish without a fight. Sophomore center Thomas Austin remembered how players like Rashaad Jackson, a junior, urged players to ``get on my back. I'll carry you through'' problems.
Jackson wouldn't allow his Tigers to give up.
``Why should we?'' Jackson asked. ``We're a team. We got through the summer and spring, we don't see nobody outside. We stick together.''
There was some excitement on the field and in the locker room after beating Wake Forest, but things quickly quieted down as Clemson concentrated on Boston College, defensive end Phillip Merling said.
``We know we got a big game ahead,'' Merling said. ``That's why I think we're a different team.''
The biggest difference from a year ago is clearly on offense.
Clemson's strong start in 2006 was powered by star running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. When defenses shut down the Tigers' ``Thunder and Lightning'' backfield down the stretch, there wasn't a consistent passing attack to bail them out.
Cullen Harper is under center now to move the Tigers through the air.
He had three more TD passes in the Wake Forest win, bringing his school-record total to 26.
The Demon Deacons allowed Davis and Spiller a combined 39 yards at halftime, yet the Tigers had put the game away by then, ahead 27-7 at the break.
Harper, already the ACC's pass efficiency leader before facing Wake Forest, completed 27 of 35 for 266.
When Wake Forest backed up to defend the pass, Davis and Spiller were more effective in the second. Davis led with 62 yards and Spiller broke off a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown - his ninth career scoring play of 50 yards or more.
Bowden said his players were intense and focused in practice all week leading up to the Wake Forest win. After all, the Demon Deacons were the defending ACC champs and had given Clemson fits the past few seasons, beating the Tigers in 2003 and 2005.
Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said Clemson's defense is fast and talented, and Harper adds a dimension the offense didn't have. ``There's something that seems to be different about this football team,'' Grobe said. ``They're awfully good.''
Bowden expects the same attitude from the Tigers this week. ``They know what's at stake,'' the coach said.
Clemson doesn't want to see this season go by with another near miss.
``During recruiting, they told me come here and win an ACC championship,'' defensive end Ricky Sapp said. ``It's happening.''