Originally created 10/07/04

Clemson tries to start new season



Tommy Bowden says he wants Clemson to have a selective memory when it comes to the first four games of the season.

He wants them, specifically, to select the four games, and erase them from memory.

The Tigers are 1-3 on paper, but he rationalizes they start their season - a seven-game schedule - at 7:45 p.m. tonight at No. 10 Virginia.

"I don't want the team to get real discouraged," said Bowden, whose Clemson teams are 0-4 in Thursday night ESPN games.

"We've got a seven-game season. Let's go to game one. ... Let's go start a new season and see what happens."

The clean-slate approach isn't just something he's adopting. He's harped on it when talking to the Tigers this week.

"Coach told us it's a seven-game season," defensive end Bobby Williamson said. "We're 0-0."

"That's our mentality now," defensive tackle Eric Coleman said. "The first four games are over with. There's nothing we can do to change those games."

All four are equally forgettable.

The Tigers needed overtime and a fourth-down pass interference call to get by Wake Forest. Then they lost to Georgia Tech in the final minute, were blasted at Texas A&M and routed late at Florida State.

Then came the off week to - literally, it seems - clear their heads.

Assuming they are able to forget games 1-4, tonight is a tough "season opener."

Clemson is Virginia's (4-0) most formidable opponent to date, but the Cavaliers appear to be a team that could very well vie for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Coach Al Groh wanted quarterback Marques Hagans to be solid, but the junior's been terrific.

He's completed 76 percent of his passes for 770 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.

With 139 yards, Hagans would be Clemson's second-leading rusher. Cavs starter Wali Lundy has rushed for 399 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games.

The Tigers have 412 yards altogether on the ground (last in the ACC), although Bowden has leaned on the stat that his backs are averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the highest since he's been at Clemson.

Carries per game (17.5), though, are the lowest they've been since Bowden arrived.

"It's just unfortunate that the game plan isn't set for us to run the ball right now," said junior running back Duane Coleman, who will start tonight for the first time since breaking his foot Aug. 10. "Maybe that will change."

Bowden said the Tigers' offensive and defensive philosophies aren't related to their record. He said turnovers were the sole reason for their slow start.

Clemson is 117th in the country - dead last - in turnover margin.

"We've played good football, minus the turnovers. If we had half as many turnovers we'd be 3-1 instead of 1-3," Bowden said. "Let's correct that and see where we are."

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3219 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com.