This is one that makes you want to throw up. Clemson dominates all afternoon, then simply falls apart late in the game when everything was on the line. This loss was truly ridiculous and pretty much was the story of Tom's tenure at Clemson: Raise the expectations, deliver results that appear to be good enough to get the team over the final hurdle, then crash and burn through a series of inexplicable events that one would not believe had he/she not seen the whole thing with his own eyes. Yep, that pretty much sums up this whole series in one game and is one of the major reasons this one got into our top 10.
Clemson (like Tom), had numerous chances to put this one away, yet snatched defeat from the hands of victory just when we all thought we had it locked up through the Tigers' inability to capitalize on favorable situations and a loss of focus. While this one will be remembered by most for a bad snap, I was most disappointed by Clemson failing to convert from 2nd and about half a foot late in the game.
The season coming in: This was the 2nd contest of the season for both squads. Clemson was coming off of a strong finish in '03 that saved Bowden's job and elevated expectations for this program. The Tigers returned many key players including Junior QB Charlie Whitehurst. Many of the "experts" expected good things out of this Tiger team, as we were ranked in the mid- to upper-teens in the major polls headed into the year.
Clemson opened the season with a home win against a Wake Forest team that had become a regular thorn in the side of this program, 37-30. The Wake contest was a tough one for the Tigers, who were rolled up in Winston Salem the year before, and this one required Clemson to rally late in the 4th quarter to send it to overtime knotted at 27. It should be noted that Clemson blew a 17-3 lead set up by a big Airese Curry TD reception, a Justin Miller punt return for a touchdown, and a safety which were all recorded before the 10 minute mark in the 2nd quarter. Clemson then proceeded to give up 24 consecutive points before tying the contest up late witha Keith Kelly TD (set up by a 4th down pass interference by the Deacons) and a great 2 point conversion grab by Kelvin Grant, all with less than 2 minutes remaining in the contest. Clemson won the game in the second overtime period on a Whitehurst to Kyle Browning TD pass. It should be noted that my main man Duane Coleman was injured with a broken foot.
By this time, Tigernation and both of us were used to Tom's shenanigans and fearful that anything could happen at any given moment. Clemson entered the game ranked 18th in the land. Georgia Tech was untested to date, cruising over Samford the previous weekend. To be honest, I really did not know what to expect, as I feared we were too highly thought of and were riding a popularity wave generated over the last 4 games of the previous season. Here is the ESPN preview, if you need it.
Tech opened the scoring this September night on a long Reggie Ball to Calvin Johnson TD pass. If JD is the ultimate Coot killer, you may want to think about glossing Johnson (or possibly Torry Holt) the Tiger killer. Clemson was able to respond, knotting the score at 7 on a Curtis Baham 22 yard TD reception from Whitehurst. Clemson gained the upper hand on a medium-length Furr field goal then further extended its lead on a 62 yard scamper by Reggie Merriweather. The two teams then traded touchdowns (Ball to Levon Thomas TD pass for Tech and a 54 yard TD run for Browning and the Tigers) to give Clemson a ten point lead with just over 3 minutes left in the contest.
This is the point in time where the wheels began to fall off for Clemson. Tech drove quickly on Clemson, gaining 7 points on another Ball to Johnson TD play. Clemson had its opportunity in this drive, but a Tye Hill interception was nullified when officials ruled that Hill interfered with Johnson to make the INT. The Jackets responded by kicking the ball to the Clemson 33 yard line. Whitehurst was able to scamper for nine and a half yards on the drive's opening play, milking the clock to below the 1:30 mark. An important aspect of this run was the CW slide at the end to avoid taking a hit. Had Whitehurst lowered his shoulder, he probably would have gained the first down. Most of TNet called him a *ussy for weeks thereafter.
So, here we are, about half a foot from sealing this football game and two shots to pick up this yardage. With Kelly and Merriweather at his disposal, you figured there was no way Bowden and crew could blow this one, right? Then it all went to crap. Whitehurst's sneak witigated on second and inches. Kelly stopped short on the ensuing play. No worries, though, as the Tigers were able to wind the game clock down to around 23 seconds to set up a punt and (at worst we thought) a last gasp effort by the Jackets.
Then it happened...my words will do no justice, so just watch the video, if you can:
This one is sickening. First, we let one player keep GT in the game. Calvin Johnson absolutely ate Clemson's lunch that night. Next, how in the hell can Whitehurst not put his hat down and get the extra yard needed for the win? It is only plausible that he was concerned about taking care of the ball and was fearful of a hit potentially causing a fumble. No problem, we have 2 downs to get a couple of inches. Who cannot get a half a yard when they absolutely need it? Well that would of course be Clemson. Clemson's inability to go ahead and will itself to victory was never more evident than this instance in time. Finally, how in the hell can your long snapper not AT LEAST get the ball to the punter? A good snap is expected. A snap over the punter's head only gives up a safety in a 3 point game. Rolling the ball back there ensures a field goal at minimum. Maximum is three bombs in the back of the endzone to Calvin Johnson.
How can this happen? I will give you a hint: shitty preparation and relatives. We weren't prepared to gain a yard when we needed it and our lack of toughness and grit was evident when times got tough. How else can you explain a complete lack of push late in the 4th quarter? The other involves everyone's favorite assistant, Jack Hines.
Jack Hines may be the worst assistant coach in the history of
Clemsonfootball. Tom's brother-in-law moved from position to position more often than Jenna Jameson. After completely ruining the defensive backfield and the whip linebacker position, Hines was moved yet again. In 2004 his "talent" was utilized with the TE's and, in Bowden's special teams by-committee strategy, he was in charge of the punt team. With this great leadership, it is no wonder Clemson couldn't manage to sit on a 3 point lead with time winding down.
The season that followed:
Clemson followed this loss with three more in a row. Quickly, Clemson fell to a very bad 1-4, getting boatraced by Texas A&M, FSU, and UVa. Clemson finished the season with a 6-5 overall record and a loss to Duke. We did finally retire Sweet Lou and picked up a big road win at Miami, but this season immediately went into the crapper following the poor effort shown against Georgia Tech, as shown in the 6-5 record.