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Bowden, Tigers Prepare For State’s Defense

Dec. 28, 1999

By ED SHEARER AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) – Ashley Cooper, Mississippi State’s star safety, has been hearing a lot about the speed Clemson’s offense will bring to the Peach Bowl on Thursday.

He’s not overly concerned.

“We’re used to fast-paced offenses,” Cooper said Monday. “Teams all over the Southeastern Conference have speed. They have exceptional speed. The main thing is to be aware. We’re going to match their speed.”

Even though the Bulldogs take a 9-2 record into the game and Clemson narrowly qualified for a postseason game by going 6-5, the Tigers are a 2-point favorite.

“That stuff doesn’t get to us at all,” Cooper said. “We’ve been underdogs all year. That stuff doesn’t worry us.”

Cooper is part of a defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense and rushing defense, giving up 222 yards per game, including 66.9 per game on the ground.

State’s defense has caught the attention of Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and his players.

During six seasons as an assistant coach at Auburn, Bowden got a good look at defenses coached by Joe Lee Dunn, Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator. Dunn had one year at Mississippi State, one at Arkansas and three at Mississippi when Bowden was at Auburn.

“The biggest difference I see is he (Dunn) is a lot more challenging in the secondary than in the past, and the reason he does that is he has a good secondary. They are real good tacklers.”

One of Clemson’s two quarterbacks who should see action in the game, Brandon Streeter, also is impressed with MSU’s defense.

“It will be a great challenge for us, especially going against a good defensive team,” Streeter said. “The biggest key for the offense is to execute properly.”

Streeter compared State’s defense with those of the two teams that will meet for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl – No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech.

“All three teams have great team speed,” Streeter said. “Virginia Tech blitzed a lot. FSU brings a lot of pressure, too.”

Streeter is returning to Atlanta for a football game for the first time since dislocating his hip in the first quarter of a Nov. 13 game against Georgia Tech. Earlier this season, he broke his collarbone against North Carolina.

“I’m 100 percent right now,” he said.

Despite missing four games with injuries, Streeter completed 111 of 164 passes for 1,165 yards and four touchdowns.

The other Tigers quarterback, sophomore Woodrow Dantzler, passed for 1,501 yards and nine scores, and is a dangerous runner. Dantzler rushed for 580 yards and four touchdowns, topped only by tailback Travis Zachary’s 827 yards and 16 scores.