The question fans are pondering about Clemson these days is not
JESSE J. HOLLAND
Nov. 10, 1995
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) _ The question fans are pondering about Clemson these days is not ``When will the Tigers score?'' _ but ``How will they score this time?''
While not the world's most proficient scoring machine, Clemson has been transformed from a school known for its ``pound-it-down-their-throat'' philosophy into a more balanced team with an air attack that keeps opposing cornerbacks on their toes.
The Tigers' new strategy has them back at No. 24 nationally, with a bowl trip in their future with just one more win.
Clemson (6-3 ,5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays host to Duke (3-6, 1-5 ACC) Saturday in Death Valley, where the Blue Devils have won only four of 17 games.
Peach Bowl representatives will be there.
Clemson fans may be enjoying the bombs, slants and routes a little too much. When the Tigers ran the ball eight times in their last possession during a North Carolina rally, coach Tommy West got several complaints about playing too conservative.
``It's funny,'' West said. ``I didn't get that question at Georgia Tech when we took the ball for about five minutes and they didn't get it back.''
Clemson has had two 500-yard rushers and two 500-yard receivers on the same team only once, back in 1989. But this year, Raymond Priester has 938 yards rushing, Emory Smith has 548 yards rushing, Antwuan Wyatt has 575 receiving and Tony Horne 375 receiving with perhaps as many as three games left.
``We try and be as balanced as we can,'' West said.
But all this offense might have tired the Tigers out.
``We've played two weeks in a row against very fine defensive teams,'' West said. ``Physically, it's definitely taken a toll on us. On the other side, we've got a lot to play for.''
No matter how they do it, the Tigers have the fourth-best offense in the conference, averaging 383.7 yards per game, 233 rushing and 150 from passing.
``We've come a long way,'' said kicker Jeff Sauve, who has hit seven of his last eight field goals.
Part of the reason the bombs have been falling is the Tigers' Nealon Greene, the second-rated passer in the ACC, behind Florida State's Danny Kanell.
Greene has put together consecutive games of at least 64 percent completion rates. He connected on 21 of 30 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns in wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina, two of the top defensive teams in the nation.
The sophomore quarterback has an average of 142 yards per game and stands only 369 yards away from the Clemson single-season record.
But don't think West doesn't realize which side his bread is buttered on.
``Number one, we're a running football team,'' West said.
Saturday's game against Duke will be the final contest in Death Valley for 24 seniors, including several starters: kicker Sauve, outside linebacker Patrick Sapp, safety Leomont Evans, linebacker Andye McCrorey, left guard Will Young, center Trevor Putnam, right tackle Robert Jackson, defensive end Lamarick Simpson, safety Brian Dawkins and punter Chris McInallay.
The seniors will be especially ready for the game, considering it will be their last chance to run out into Death Valley as Clemson Tigers, Sauve said.
``It'll be a weird feeling running down The Hill one last time,'' Sauve said. ``We want to go out in style.''