Originally created 09/29/05

Tigers games not for faint of heart



CLEMSON, S.C. - It's been a year of dizzying highs and devastating lows for Clemson - and the season's only four games old.

Perhaps no team in the country has wrung more out of its players or fans than the Tigers, whose games this season were decided in the dying moments with the last swing of a leg or final push of an offensive line.

"Since I've been here, it's always been like that," Clemson cornerback Tye Hill said.

He's got a point. Eight of Clemson's past nine games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including all four this season. Three times during that stretch, including the past two games, the Tigers have needed overtime.

"You get kind of used to it," said Hill, a senior. "You don't want it to happen, but you kind of expect it."

Especially this fall.

Clemson started out dramatically, rallying to beat then-No. 17 Texas A&M 25-24 on Jad Dean's school-record sixth field goal - a 42-yarder with two seconds remaining.

The Tigers kept it up a week later at Maryland, coming from 10 points down in the final quarter for a 28-24 victory. The game-breaking play was North Augusta's Reggie Merriweather's 38-yard touchdown run with 2:58 to go.

That was a cakewalk compared with Clemson's past two games.

First came its triple OT thriller with Miami, a 36-30 home loss that ended when safety Kenny Phillips intercepted Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in the third extra period. The Death Valley fans saluted their team with cheers after it staged its 10-point, final-period comeback to tie things at the end of regulation.

Clemson needed another 10-point rally to tie Boston College before losing 16-13 in overtime.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden knows the mental and emotional toll games like these can take. He kneeled at midfield after the Miami game to collect his thoughts.

At the moment, Bowden's positive his guys are prepared to give maximum effort and don't appear frayed at the edges from their past two defeats.

"It seems like we're all right now," he said. "I think the mental frame of mind is good."

Good? Some Tigers think it's great.

"To me, it's really exciting," defensive end Charles Bennett said of the close finishes.

There's nothing that pumps players up more, Bennett said, than feeding off excited teammates all working toward the same goal.

Bennett was a big part of that excitement against Miami, his third-down sack of quarterback Kyle Wright forcing a punt and leading to Clemson's series that tied the game on Dean's field goal.

But the Tigers couldn't make enough of those game-shaping plays against Boston College.

"I know it sounds funny to say, but we were so close (to breaking big plays last week)," Whitehurst said.

Bowden pulls as many positives as he can from Clemson's .500 start.

"If I were to ask this team today to go out in full pads for 30 periods, roughly about three hours and say, 'Sorry, men, because of who we're playing, we're going to have to do a live goal line scrimmage for 20 minutes,' they would do it," Bowden said proudly.

The Games


Game 1: Won, 25-24


Opponent: Texas A&M


Date: Sept. 3


Key factor: Jad Dean kicks his sixth field goal of the night, a 42-yarder with two seconds remaining, to lift the Tigers to victory.

Game 2: Won, 28-24


Opponent: Maryland


Date: Sept. 10


Key factor: 38-yard touchdown run from Reggie Merriweather with three minutes left helps Clemson overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Game 3: Lost, 36-30 (3OT)


Opponent: Miami


Date: Sept. 17


Key factor: Clemson blows an opportunity as Charlie Whitehurst overshoots a wide-open Chansi Stuckey (left) in the end zone with 19 seconds left.

Game 4: Lost, 16-13 (OT)

Opponent: Boston College


Date: Sept. 24


Key factor: The Tigers go 0-for-11 on third downs in another heartbreaker.

Sources: clemsontigers.collegesports.com, staff reports