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2008 Clemson Season in Review

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OK, admit it, Husker fan.  Before Thanksgiving, about all you knew about Clemson was (a) orange uniforms, (b) 1981, (c) they were a top ten team to open the season, got blown out by Alabama, and fired Tommy Bowden in the middle of the season.

That's me too.  There's no shame in admitting ignorance about the ACC.  We don't get many ACC games on TV, and once Alabama blew them out, there was no point in following them.  Certainly it paled in comparison to the battles within the Big XII, and some of the other marquee conferences.  (Of course, the folks in the ACC will also claim ignorance about a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team that got pasted in their two ESPN games...  Fair enough.)

Which mean's it's time for a quick remedial course on Clemson's season.

Alabama 34, Clemson 10

James Davis and C.J. Spiller were touted as "Thunder and Lightning" in the backfield.  Davis had rushed for 1,064 yards in 2007, and Spiller added 1,039 yards rushing and receiving in 2007.  But the Tide held this duo to 56 yards of offense in the season opener.  In fact, once you subtract out quarterback sacks, Clemson ended the game with 0 yards rushing.  Alabama raced out to a 23-3 halftime lead, and except for Spiller's 96 yard kickoff return to open the second half, Alabama was never challenged.

Clemson 45, The Citadel 17

The Tigers rebounded nicely in their home opener against 1-AA The Citadel (who would finish the season 4-8 and finish 7th in the 9 team Southern conference).  But the Bulldogs did throw for 338 yards, allowing them to amass 427 yards of offense and 19 first downs.  Davis ended up with 107 yards rushing, matching Spiller's 107 yards of offense.

Clemson 27, North Carolina State 9

Tiger quarterback Cullen Harper threw a pick-6 to open the game, but the Tigers dominated the rest of the way.  North Carolina State did not score an offensive touchdown in their first two conference games.  NC State quarterback Russell Wilson returned to the field after suffering a severe concussion in the season opener against South Carolina, but eventually was pulled in favor of former Husker Harrison Beck who completed five of eight passes for 60 yards, and yes, another interception.

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Clemson 54, South Carolina State 0

Another complete domination of a 1-AA opponent.  This time it was SC State, who would go 10-3 and win the Mid-Eastern Conference championship, but still only end up 140th in the Sagarin computer Rankings.   The Bulldogs were held to 152 yards of offense.  Davis had 95 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, while Spiller added 63 on the ground.

Maryland 20, Clemson 17

Clemson took a 17-6 halftime lead on touchdown runs from Davis and Spiller, but were shut out in the second half.  Davis and Spiller combined for 241 of Clemson's 372 yards, but only 31 of those came in the second half. It seemed to be a pretty ugly game on both sides of the field.  The loss reignited the hot seat under head coach Tommy Bowden, who said the Tigers "self-imploded" against the Terps.

Wake Forest 12, Clemson 7

Another ugly offensive performance for the Tigers, as Davis and Spiller combined for 62 yards of offense, while Cullen Harper completed just 15 of 35 passes for 177 yards.  Meanwhile, Wake failed to capitalize on two early drives that got deep into the Red Zone; other this game might have been over early.  Clemson was -6 yards rushing at halftime, and was in negative yards of total offense until midway through the 2nd quarter.  It was the final straw for Bowden, as he resigned two days after the game and was replaced by wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney, who then immediately fired offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Georgia Tech 21, Clemson 17

Swinney replaced ineffective starting quarterback Cullen Harper with freshman Willy  Korn, who left the game in the 1st quarter with a shoulder injury.  In came Harper in relief, who rallied the Tigers into the lead in the 3rd quarter.  Spiller didn't play due to a hamstring injury, and Davis only accounted for 53 yards of offense. 

Clemson 27, Boston College 21

Spiller returned to the lineup and accounted for 160 yards of offense (not to mention 82 yards in returns) despite suffering an apparent head injury that kept him sidelined most of the third quarter.  Davis added another 52 yards on the ground, while Harper rebounded with a 21 for 33 performance passing for 252 yards.  The Tigers took a 17-0 halftime lead, but squandered it in that third quarter with Spiller on the sideline, going down 21-17 before roaring back due to Spiller's 64 yard kickoff return.

Florida State 41, Clemson 27

The Seminoles racked up 266 yards rushing against the Clemson defense.  Spiller had 121 yards of offense, while Davis added 48 yards on the ground.  Harper went 19 for 33 passing for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The game was tight through the first half as the Seminoles took a 20-17 halftime lead, but Florida State nailed the game down with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the 'Noles a 14 point victory.

Clemson 31, Duke 7

Spiller had another outstanding performance, accounting for 108 yards and a touchdown receiving and 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  Davis added another 43 yards and two touchdowns, as the Tigers took a 31-0 lead into the fourth quarter against the woeful Duke (4-8) Blue Devils. 

Clemson 13, Virginia 3

Spiller was shut down on the ground (18 yards) and receiving (16 yards), but did throw a 15 yard touchdown pass to Tyler Grisham for the only touchdown of the game.  Davis did account for 79 yards of offense, with Harper going 18 for 28 passing for only 121 yards.  The Tiger defense picked off Virginia Marc Verica three times in this defensive slugfest as neither team could top 192 yards of offense.

Clemson 31, South Carolina 14

The "Thunder and Lightning" duo made a reappearance as both backs had big games.  Davis had 91 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and Spiller added 88 yards rushing.  Harper went 12 for 17 and 199 yards passing as the Tigers jumped out to a 24-0 lead on their in-state rival.  The Tiger defense had another outstanding performance, picking off SC's Chris Smelley four times.  Smelley might still have been shell-shocked from the pasting the Gamecocks took the week before from Florida.