Originally created 11/24/03

Whitehurst leads Clemson to success



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst may be 2-0 in his career against South Carolina. But he still has a lot of things to learn about this series.

Despite throwing for 302 yards and tying his school record with four touchdowns, Whitehurst never once taunted the Gamecocks, never did anything outrageous - remember South Carolina's Steve Taneyhill signing his name in the Death Valley end zone a decade ago - and barely took credit for the 63-17 win Saturday night and the most points ever scored by the Tigers (8-4) in 101 do-or-die contests with the Gamecocks.

"We took advantage of our opportunities," Whitehurst said, "and the coaches did a great job calling the game."

That's it? No great sound bite about "fried chicken" or ending South Carolina's run to the postseason for the second-straight year?

Maybe Whitehurst takes his cue from Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. When asked about his sophomore quarterback's play - Whitehurst connected on 18 of 26 passes for his fourth career game with four TDs - Bowden casually said, "He's a good player. He has the potential to be a great quarterback in his future."

Ask South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, most Gamecocks and much of the 83,987 people at Williams-Brice Stadium and their answer is probably this: Whitehurst is a great quarterback now.

He didn't waste time showing that in this one.

Whitehurst threw TD passes on Clemson's first three possessions. By the time tight end Ben Hall rumbled in untouched with a 39-yard scoring pass, the Tigers were ahead 21-0 with 4:38 left to play in the first quarter.

When South Carolina tried to regain momentum with a field goal and a touchdown in the second quarter, Whitehurst calmed the Tigers down and drove them to two more scores for a 35-10 lead at the half.

By then, the Gamecocks (5-7) hopes for the postseason, along with representatives from the Music City and Houston bowls, had left the arena.

Also gone was much of the uncertainty surrounding Bowden's future - at least from the side of Clemson administrators and fans.

The Greenville News reported that athletic director Terry Don Phillips, who at halftime maintained his season-long stance that he and the coach would talk after the season, said he wanted Bowden back as coach. "But until we have a chance to talk, I don't want to say too much," he said.

Bowden read a handwritten statement saying he would not discuss his status. He loved the university and would always be bonded because his son and daughter have university degrees. "I'll wait until I hear from the president" of Clemson, James Barker.

Bowden is the only coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history to lead a team to bowl games in his first five seasons.

It's been a trying, rewarding season, Bowden said, with the unexpected blowout loss to Wake Forest on Nov. 1 - and the heat that came with it - followed by decisive wins over Florida State (26-10), Duke (40-7) and the Gamecocks.

"It's been a long year," Bowden said. "The last four weeks for my family, for myself, it's been very taxing."

Whoever strolls the sideline will have a polished gem waiting in Whitehurst. He's the son of former Green Bay passer David Whitehurst. The two studied film together growing up and the younger Whitehurst would drill with his father on techniques and timing during his high school days.

Whitehurst was expected to sit for a couple of years, potentially not starting until the fall of 2004. But he became the starter midway through his redshirt freshman season and almost from his first snap, showed a poise beyond his years.

Whitehurst's four touchdowns against South Carolina tied a school record he shares with two others. It's also the fourth times he achieved it in 17 career starts. A touchdown pass in Clemson's bowl game - the Tigers are likely to make the Gator or Peach bowls - would give him 22 for the year, a single-season school record.

South Carolina's two-deep zone was a soft, chewy center waiting for Whitehurst's touch. "We felt we could hit one or two, maybe, not three," he said.

If Whitehurst's progress continues, he might say the same thing about how many wins he get over South Carolina in his Clemson career.