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Quote:ACC Preview: Bowden, Clemson Wake up

By Brian Murphy

Telegraph Staff Writer

Tommy Bowden knew the history. He knew it wasn't good.

In the moments following Clemson's 45-17 loss at Wake Forest, Bowden knew that losing to the Demon Deacons was a no-no in the land of the Tigers.

"I knew when I lost that (game) at this particular school, it wasn't your typical situation," Bowden said.

It was the type of loss that costs coaches their jobs - and Bowden was all too aware of it. The last two times Clemson lost to Wake Forest, its head coach didn't make it to the next season.

So why is Bowden still around to talk about it?

Because after the loss to Wake Forest, Clemson reeled off four consecutive victories, including upsets of No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Tennessee and routs of Duke (40-7) and hated-rival South Carolina (63-17).

Aware that those four victories saved his job, Bowden signed a three-year extension with Clemson in the offseason. The deal will keep him with the Tigers until 2010 and includes a hefty buyout if he were to be fired.

His "safety net," as he called it just got a whole lot bigger. And it should be enough to survive when the talk about his performance starts again, which Bowden is sure it will.

"As soon as I lose, probably as soon as I lose," said Bowden, whose team opens with, ironically, Wake Forest. "That's just college athletics. It's not really that earth shattering that it's going to happen again."

Those four victories have raised the bar for Bowden, who is starting his eighth year with the Tigers. Clemson starts the year ranked 16th in the country.

"The players who kind of got us through the last four games, those guys are gone," he said. "That's going to be an important piece of the puzzle. How (new leaders) step in, how soon they step in and how good a job they do when they step in."

He doesn't have to look far for his offensive leader. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst returns for his junior season already in possession of 33 school passing records and 18 career starts.

Whitehurst has tossed for more than 5,000 yards in his first two seasons, joining former N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers as the only passers in Atlantic Coast Conference history to accomplish that feat.

Considered by many to be the league's top quarterback, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Whitehurst knows the expectations have changed for these Tigers.

"I'd like to be considered in that group, but we have a good bit to prove. We put up some numbers last year, some wins. We just have to see," he said. "But you look at the top teams in the conference and you say, 'Hey, those are the ones we're going after now.'"

• Coming Tuesday: Duke
08-09-2004 09:37 AM
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