Dec. 29, 1999
By ED SHEARER AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) – Much of the Peach Bowl publicity has centered on Joe Lee Dunn’s Mississippi State defense turning loose the blitz on Clemson.
Clemson’s defensive coordinator, Reggie Herring, says hold on.
“We are not Joe Lee Dunn Part 2, but we have a pressure defense, too,” Herring said Tuesday.
“We’ve been relatively consistent throughout the season,” Herring said. “When we played the good teams, this team showed up to play. I think our kids are ready for this challenge.”
That was sweet music to Herring’s offensive counterpart, Rich Rodriguez.
“I feel a lot better after hearing Reggie,” Rodriguez said. “If we get seven (points), we may be all right.”
Three of Clemson’s five losses came against teams that finished the regular season unbeaten, including one that already has won its bowl game – Marshall.
The Thundering Herd beat the Tigers 13-10 in the season opener. The other losses to unbeatens were to the two teams that meet for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl – No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech.
FSU beat the Tigers 17-14 in a game that matched Clemson coach Tommy Bowden against his famous father, Bobby Bowden. Tech beat the Tigers 31-11, scoring twice late in the game.
“We’re a defense that is small of stature but possesses a lot of team speed,” Herring said.
Herring says Mississippi State (9-2) has a reputation of pounding the ball with its offense.
“But they are throwing the ball more. They have a 300-pound line. They have very physical running backs. The pressure is on us defensively. If they score a bunch of points on us, it’s over.”
Herring will be going against an old acquaintance in Sparky Woods, in his first season as offensive coordinator for MSU coach Jackie Sherrill. Woods was on the staff at Clemson’s Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia the last two years.
Woods says from what he’s seen, Clemson’s defense is similar to Tigers defenses he’s faced in the past.
“They’re probably not as big, but they play very reckless on defense,” Woods said.
Woods agrees that the Bulldogs probably throw the ball more this year than they have in the last few seasons.
“We probably are throwing the ball more than we would like to throw,” he said. “I want to run the ball, but I can’t be stubborn about it. I can add.”
When defenses load up at the line of scrimmage, he said, he has no choice but to pass.
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