Mistakes prevented Tigers from staying with Dawgs


Posted Aug 31, 2003


In the cars that inched their way through snail-pace traffic toward Memorial Stadium. In the stands where high heat and high humidity left most of the 83,000 fans drenched in sweat. And finally, most unsettling of all, in every glance at the Death Valley scoreboards.

CLEMSON, S.C. - Saturday was a day of rising temperatures in Clemson.

In the cars that inched their way through snail-pace traffic toward Memorial Stadium. In the stands where high heat and high humidity left most of the 83,000 fans drenched in sweat. And finally, most unsettling of all, in every glance at the Death Valley scoreboards.

Willing to put up with other discomforts in hopes of savoring another sizzling Clemson-Georgia football finish, the Tigers and their fans instead left in a lather, on the sweaty end of a 30-0 blowout loss.

"I thought we'd play a lot better," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "I really did...

"There's always a worst-case scenario. You could always get beat worse. But to lose to a traditional rival in your first game, home opener, I'm disappointed."

The Tigers were in the game much of the way, trailing 13-0 much of it with chances to get back in it before the No. 11 Bulldogs tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

But they hurt themselves with errors, robbing themselves of scoring chances. And the running game they believed was improving dropped off the charts, producing 35 yards in 24 rushes.

Surrendering one touchdown and two field goals on three of Georgia's first four series, the Tigers were left again licking their wounds. They wanted more - and to ease fans' concern, no doubt needed much more - after last season closed with an embarrassing 55-15 Tangerine Bowl loss to Texas Tech.

Saturday's performance hardly resembled the one Clemson had in last season's opener, a 31-28 Georgia victory in Athens that wasn't safe until the Tigers missed a 46-yard field goal attempt with one minute to play.

The Bulldogs went on to a 13-1 record, SEC championship and Sugar Bowl victory.

"I definitely thought it would be closer," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the rematch. "No turnovers and great defense (by the Bulldogs) is why it wasn't.

"But all it took was one touchdown and suddenly they're one play away from taking the lead. It was 13-0 most of the day."

That was enough of a cushion, however, to force the Tigers to go more to the air than they would have liked. By halftime they had rushed the ball 12 times for a net of minus-7 yards.

"To win against a team like (Georgia)," Bowden said, "you've got to run more times than throw it. But if it's not working. ..."

Saturday, at least, it wasn't


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