Sept. 30, 2006
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson’s ground game finally has caught up to coach Tommy Bowden’s expectations.
Bowden has tried to improve the Tigers’ rushing attack for years with little success, usually relying on sneaky passing schemes and skilled quarterbacks and receivers to make up for the lack of production on the ground. This year, though, Bowden at last likes what he sees from tailback James Davis and the Tigers’ offensive line.
Davis ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 18 Clemson to a 51-0 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. Two other runners, freshmen Demerick Chancellor, each went over 100 yards and the Tigers totaled 393 yards on the ground, their second straight game with 300-plus yards.
“I’ve talked about the running game a long time, but have never gotten it done,” Bowden said. “Finally, it’s good to see some of the results.”
Clemson (4-1) posted its first shutout in six seasons and is off to its best start in five years. Davis and the running game are certainly big reasons why.
The sophomore got things going early with a 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, bouncing out to the left sideline and high-kicking into the end zone. It was Clemson’s longest run by a tailback since Raymond Priester had a 65-yarder against South Carolina in 1996.
Two series later, Davis was at it again. He gained 52 yards on seven carries, ending things with a 4-yard TD run that increased the lead to 17-0 over Louisiana Tech (1-3). Davis, who ran in four touchdowns in last week’s 52-7 win over North Carolina, has 11 TDs on the season, only six off the school record set by Lester Brown in 1978.
“Coach Bowden told me, ‘You want 100 yards, you gotta break a long one,”‘ Davis said. “When I got back to the sidelines, he said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.”‘
Davis didn’t play at all in the second half.
Spiller finished with 127 yards and a touchdown. Chancellor went over 100 yards on Clemson’s final series and his 113-yard performance gave the Tigers three players reaching the century mark for the first time since a 48-0 win over Virginia in 1982.
With his team ahead 31-0, Clemson’s Jacoby Ford opened the second half with a 94-yard kickoff return TD. The freshman became the first in school history with scores by kickoff and punt returns of more than 90 yards. Ford had a school record 92-yard punt return touchdown in a 54-6 win over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 2.
Bowden said his team took control of things fairly quickly. “It doesn’t happen in this profession that often,” he said. “I’m enjoying it when it does.”
Clemson’s defense did its part, too, holding an opponent scoreless for the first time since a 38-0 win over the Citadel to start the 2000 season.
Defensive end Gaines Adams said the shutout is a confidence builder for the Tigers. “The goose egg is always great,” he said. “We know we got a big game next week. We know we’re going to up the ante and get prepared.”
The Tigers next face unbeaten Wake Forest (5-0) in Winston-Salem, N.C., where they have lost their past two meetings.
Louisiana Tech was overmatched from the start. It had minus-24 yards rushing in the opening half. The Bulldogs’ best chance to score came at the end of the first half when they had a first-and-goal at the Clemson 6.
Despite lopsided losses at Nebraska (49-10) and Texas A&M (45-14), Tech coach Jack Bicknell had thought his team was coming together and hoped for a stronger performance at Death Valley. But the Bulldogs threw four interceptions in the second half, three by starter Zac Champion.
Clemson linebacker Nick Watkins returned Champion’s first interception 26 yards for a touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 44-0 with 13:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“Obviously we came out in the second half and gave up those two long plays,” Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell said. “It wasn’t like we weren’t trying. We fought hard the whole time.”
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