CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says there's one focus for this week's game with Wofford, the country's smallest NCAA Division I football school - and it's not running up the score.
"Really, whether it's Wofford, Virginia, Florida State or South Carolina, you look for players to improve their performance from the first week to the second week," Bowden said Tuesday. "The mission or the goal is to show improvement across the board."
Some think Clemson's got a lot of improving to do. The Tiger nation, dreaming of the Bowl Championship Series, wasn't all thrilled after Clemson needed a touchdown on a fake field goal to defeat Central Florida 21-13.
The team dropped from 19th to 20th in this week's rankings as the offense struggled and Bowden moved highly touted freshman Roscoe Crosby into its featured X-wide out slot.
But Bowden looked to Fresno State's 44-24 dismantling of Oregon State - picked to win the national title by Sports Illustrated - for those griping too much.
Bowden said the separation between Fresno State and Oregon State was similar to Central Florida and Clemson. "I'm sure (Oregon State coach) Dennis Erickson would have been happy with a 21-13 win," Bowden said.
There's the potential for a blowout against the Terriers. Wofford is the smallest NCAA Division I football school with about 1,200 students. Wofford also is home to the Carolina Panthers NFL summer camp and didn't start practice until a week after most schools. In addition, it doesn't play too many season openers before the 79,000-plus expected at Memorial Stadium.
Wofford quarterback Travis Wilson said his team was very loose. "What are we, 40-point underdogs? Something like that," he said. "We're not supposed to even be in the game. We don't care."
The Terriers use an option attack that Clemson - or anyone in Division I-A - doesn't see much these days. However, if the Tigers stay at home and play "assignment football," linebacker John Leake said "we can really make some strides."
Leake said while Clemson was prepared for Central Florida, the Tigers may have back on their heels a bit at first. UCF won at Alabama and nearly did the same at Georgia Tech a year ago, he said, "and we messed up here and there on defense against them. We'll have to do things better this week."
Bowden said the Knights played on emotion and came in hyped up for victory. UCF coach Mike Kruczek told Bowden he got his players fired up partly from a newspaper article that referred to Clemson's "cupcake" opponents.
"You could hear them in their locker room yelling and shouting," Bowden said. "They came out talking and taunting our players. Football is a game of emotion and you've got to play that way."
It almost worked. Clemson managed victory from a fake field goal run in for a third-quarter touchdown by holder Jeff Scott. The Tigers defense was spotty at times, but stopped UCF five of the seven times it got into Clemson territory.
Bowden thinks that scare by UCF will be enough motivation for his team this week.
"Regardless of the opponent, I think the players have a tendency to feel more of a sense of urgency with a closer score," Bowden said.
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