Tommy Bowden said he's never had a team drop as many balls as his did in last week's 38-3 collapse against North Carolina.
The third-year Clemson coach said he's also never had that many freshmen on the field, and that's how he rationalizes the worst offensive performance of his tenure.
The Tigers' defense is undergoing significant philosophical changes after giving up 119 points in the past three games, but Bowden said the offensive scheme will remain the same.
"Anytime you play young guys or inexperienced guys, you have to weather the storm," said Bowden, whose Tigers play at Wake Forest on Saturday (noon, Fox Sports Net).
The main sources of Bowden's frustration last week were freshman receivers Derrick Hamilton, Roscoe Crosby and Airese Currie. The three have seemingly boundless potential - Hamilton has a team-high 31 receptions, and Currie is averaging 22.3 yards per catch - but their youth showed with several crucial drops against the Tar Heels.
"Right now we're not strong enough on offense to overcome that, and we're not strong enough on defense," Bowden said.
Still, it's not as though the offense has run aground. The Tigers racked up 92 points in the two games before last week's dud, and they're still averaging 414 yards per game despite the 209-yard output against North Carolina.
"Several performances like that in a row, then you have to do something to get their attention," Bowden said.
FRESH START: Florida coach Steve Spurrier said former Butler star Ben Troupe will start at tight end when the No. 6 Gators play No. 15 Georgia on Saturday in Jacksonville (3:30 p.m., CBS-Ch. 12).
Spurrier has recently become disappointed in the play of normal starterAaron Walker, who had just one catch for 14 yards in Auburn's 23-20 upset of the Gators on Oct. 13.
"Aaron didn't have a great game last time, and we've got to give Bennie a chance," Spurrier said.
Troupe played in just four games last season, seeing action in 33 plays and hauling in one reception. This year, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore has played in all six games and recorded seven catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
AGONY OF THE FEET: North Augusta's Anthony Young, a sophomore quarterback at Wake Forest, is questionable for Saturday's game with Clemson because of a foot injury.
"It's something he can probably go on if he can get the soreness out of his foot, but we will wait until Saturday to make that call," said first-year Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe.
Young has split time with James MacPherson this season at Wake Forest's signal-caller spot.
MAN OF STEAL: When Georgia coach Mark Richt was an assistant at Florida State, a bitter rivalry with Florida didn't stop him from stealing a few plays from Spurrier.
Spurrier has long been known as college football's premier innovator, so Richt didn't see anything wrong with incorporating some of the master's tricks into the Seminoles' offense.
"I've probably copied more plays from him than anybody," Richt said. "I'm sure everybody around the country borrows things that they see Florida do offensively, because it's good stuff. Every once in a while, it helped us win games while I was at Florida State."
SAY WHAT? Tennessee and Duke are seldom spoken in the same sentence when football is the subject, but South Carolina coach Lou Holtz tried his best to connect the two this week.
Holtz was asked where 106,000-seat Neyland Stadium ranks on his list of toughest places to play. The 64-year-old said it's right up there with Duke's Wallace-Wade Stadium, an antiquated structure that posed awkward inconveniences when Holtz took his N.C. State teams there in the 1970s.
"There wouldn't be a lot of people in the stands, and the dressing room was 130 yards across the practice field," said Holtz, whose No. 12 Gamecocks play at No. 9 Tennessee on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2). "You walked down there, and it was sandy. You walked into the end zone, and you had to go around the fence.
"It was just like you were walking on a sandlot to play a game, and there's a big track around a dilapidated field, and everybody's far away. You walk out there like, OK, who's got a football?"
BACKUP BLUES: Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards agrees that dropped passes should necessitate a drop on the depth chart.
The former Washington County star has made a troubling habit of the drops this season, and this week he was replaced in the starting lineup by LaBrone Mitchell because of it.
"I'm dealing with it fine," said Edwards, a junior who dropped two passes in last week's 43-29 win over Kentucky and a few more in the Bulldogs' 14-9 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 8. "I'm a mature young man. I understand the way football goes if you're not producing: The next man behind you gets his chance."
Edwards has a team-high 24 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
EXTRA POINTS: Florida has lost consecutive SEC games only once since 1990. The Gators lost at Tennessee and at Mississippi State in 1992. ... Clemson ranks last in the ACC and 104th nationally in turnover margin (-1.17). "If you continue to play hard, those things will eventually turn," Bowden said. ... Tennessee was 8-for-8 on third-down conversions in its last two drives of last week's 35-24 win at Alabama. ... For the fifth straight season, No. 6 Florida and No. 15 Georgia enter their game in the Top 15 of The Associated Press poll. ... ACC teams are 8-11 in league home games this season ... Florida has rushed for a combined -114 rushing yards in its past two SEC losses. The Gators totaled -78 last year at Mississippi State and -36 in their Oct. 13 loss at Auburn. ... Eleven SEC games have been decided by five or fewer points, the most in any conference this season. ... Since 1990, Florida is 105-6 when it rushes for 100 yards or more and 12-20-1 when it rushes for fewer than 100. ... Clemson is 7-1 after a loss under Bowden. ... South Carolina is 0-10 at Tennessee and has lost those games by an average of 28.2 points.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.