Dec. 7, 2008
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Clemson, SC – Clemson will face Nebraska in the January 1, 2009 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, FL at 1:00 PM. The contest will be nationally televised by CBS. This will be Clemson’s ninth appearance in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, more than any other school, and it will be the first appearance for Nebraska.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the January 1, 1982 Orange Bowl when Clemson defeated the Cornhuskers 22-15 to win the National Championship and close a perfect 12-0 season.
Clemson enters this game with a 7-5 record, but the Tigers have won their last three games and four of their last five. Clemson is ranked 19th in the latest Sagarin Computer poll. Nebraska finished the regular season with an 8-4 record, including a 5-3 record in the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska won its last three games and five of its last six with the only loss coming to Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
Both Clemson head coach Rick Stockstill was the Middle Tennessee head coach.
“This will be a special game for all Clemson fans because it will be a matchup that brings back memories of Clemson’s 1981 national championship,” said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “Nebraska has one of the great national programs in college football history. I grew up an Alabama fan and there were some big games between Alabama and Nebraska when I was a kid. I always had great respect for Tom Osborne and his program.
“Nebraska has finished strong. Both of us have won our last three games and will be entering this game playing our best football of the season. Coach Pelini has done a terrific job and has an outstanding staff. They have been outstanding on offense all year averaging over 36 points a game, so this will be a great challenge for our defense against a productive Big 12 team.”
The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl will feature the matchup between Nebraska’s offense against Clemson’s defense. Nebraska ranks 18th in the nation in scoring with an average of 36.17 points per game and 12th in total offense with an average of 458.25 yards per game.
Clemson is 10th in the nation in scoring defense (16.6), ninth in pass efficiency defense, 10th in pass defense (167.3) and 17th in total defense (294.8). Clemson led the ACC in scoring defense and is second in the nation behind Southern California in fewest yards allowed per pass attempt.
Clemson is led on offense by running backs James Davis and Cullen Harper and wide receiver Aaron Kelly. Davis has 725 yards rushing and has scored 11 touchdowns this year. He needs just 112 rushing yards in the Gator Bowl to become Clemson’s career leader and two touchdowns to establish a Clemson career record. He currently has 49 after a three touchdown performance against South Carolina in the regular season finale.
Spiller leads the ACC in all-purpose running and was named first-team All-ACC as a specialist this year. Spiller needs just 114 all-purpose running yards to become Clemson’s career leader. He has 612 yards rushing and 430 yards receiving in addition to ranking 12th in the nation in kickoff returns. His reception yardage total was a Clemson record for a running back.
Harper ranked second in the ACC in passing efficiency and had a league best 63.2 completion percentage. He leads the ACC in passing yards per game with nearly 200 per contest. He has 501 career completions, second best in Clemson history. He owns the Clemson record for completion percentage in a career and ranks second in efficiency.
Kelly is the ACC’s career leader in receptions with 226 and needs just 23 receiving yards in the bowl game to become Clemson’s all-time leader. He has 61 receptions for 648 yards and three scores this year. He is Clemson’s career leader in touchdown receptions as well. Kelly was a second-team All-ACC selection this year.
Michael Hamlin, a first-team All-ACC safety, is the leader of Clemson’s defense. The graduate has six interceptions to rank in a tie for sixth in the nation, and he has also contributed a team best nine pass deflections. His 15 passes defensed rank among the national leaders as well. Hamlin is second on the Clemson team in tackles with 102 and has 18 career takeaways (interceptions plus fumble recoveries). He ranks second in Clemson history in that category, just one short of Terry Kinard’s career record of 19 set between 1978-82.
Clemson’s top tackler is junior linebacker Kavell Conner, who has a career high 114 stops. Graduate Chris Clemons is third on the team in tackles with 84, while freshman Brandon Maye is fourth with 83. Maye was second in the voting for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Offensively, Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz ranks 14th in the nation in passing efficiency and is 13th in total offense. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 3332 yards and 23 touchdowns. His favorite receiver is Nate Swift, who has 60 receptions for 909 yards and nine scores. The top rusher is Roy Helu, Jr., who has 804 yards rushing and a 6.7 average to go with seven rushing touchdowns. Nebraska has 27 touchdowns rushing and 25 passing so far this year.
On defense, Nebraska is led by Ndamukong Suh, who has 68 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Larry Asante has 64 tackles to rank second on the team. Nebraska has given up 29 points and 362 yards per game.
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