Clemson tries to rebound from poor season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2001

Sports Editor

Louisiana Tech (7-4) is in its first bowl game since joining Division I-A back in 1989.

Clemson (6-5) is wishing it was someplace else.

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Both teams will tangle in the Humanitarian Bowl on Monday in Boise, Idaho.

Tommy Bowden’s Clemson Tigers were supposed to contend for the ACC and possibly the national title this season, but was staggered by a 26-24 loss to Virginia early on. They lost three of their last four to end the year.

Things got even harsher for the Tigers after the season ended when starters Akil Smith and Travis Zachery were booted from the team after being arrested on drug-distribution charges. Zachery was the team’s second leading rusher behind all-purpose quarterback Woody Dantzler, while Smith was a tackle on the offensive line.

Louisiana Tech’s defense has a reputation for giving up yardage and points so Dantzler, who became the first NCAA player to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season, may give the Bulldogs fits.

Clemson’s defense is just as bad, though, and unlike the Tigers, Tech still has their top tailback, Joe Smith (874 yards and seven touchdowns). They also have a super sophomore quarterback in Luke McCown (3,337 yards and 28 TDs).

What’s it like to be 11-2 and have to spend your postseason in the Silicon Valley Bowl?

Ask Fresno State, who will look to win at least a few more pollsters over with a win against Michigan State (6-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) on Monday.

The Bulldogs, out of the nationally not-known WAC, grabbed the headlines early in the year with road wins over Wisconsin and Big 12 champ Colorado, but dropped two straight games to Boise State and Hawaii after a 6-0 start.

Quarterback David Carr became just the sixth Division I quarterback in history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a season. While Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch grabbed the Heisman, Carr stole the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award.

Michigan State is just searching for a secondary that will be able to contend with Carr and the Fresno State offense. The Spartans have been decimated in the defensive backfield and head coach Bobby Williams hopes his offense is healthy enough to keep Michigan State in the ball game.

Before No. 19 BYU’s final game against Hawaii, the Cougars, 12-0 at that point, were contemplating suing the BCS after being left out of the top four bowl games.

Hawaii halted all that talk with a 72-45 victory.

So instead, the Cougars will spend New Year’s Eve in Memphis, Tenn., to play No. 23 Louisville (10-2) in the Liberty Bowl.

BYU will be without the services of Doak Walker award winner, running back Luke Staley, but quarterback Brandon Doman has accounted for 3,542 yards and 33 touchdowns this season.

While not as high profile as the Cougars’ offense, Louisville can match BYU stride-for-stride and yard-for-yard. Quarterback Dave Ragone has chalked up a few miles of his own, throwing for 3,056 yards this season and 23 touchdown strikes.

Louisville’s defense is still stinging over its final two games of the season. The Cardinal gave up 71 points in a win over East Carolina and loss to Texas Christian, after allowing just 14 points per contest in its first 10 games.

BYU, on the other hand, believes defense is optional, surrendering over 30 points per game this year.

This seems to have become the scenario in college football’s bowl season.

A 9-2 ranked team taking on a barely there 6-5 squad.

Such will be the case when No. 13 Washington State plays Purdue on Monday in the Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas.

The Boilermakers are post-Drew Brees and it’s showing. True freshman Kyle Orton completed well under half of his passes in the final two games of the season for 521 yards, an average of just 4.6 yards per throw.

After losing starting running back David Minnich to injury, the Cougars’ offense has been in somewhat of a slump. They averaged 43.8 points per game through their first seven of the year, but that fell off to 19.8 in the final four outings.