Clemson University

Tigers focus defensive sights on Furman

CLEMSON -- The gloomy faces of Clemson's defensive coaches dragged down the mood around the office Sunday afternoon.

Their sentiment was quantified by the number glaring on the video equipment in Tommy Bowden's office.

Counting plays nullified by penalty, Louisiana-Monroe had more than 80 offensive snaps in the Tigers' 49-26 triumph Saturday, about 20 more than deemed preferable against a team of that caliber.

"It looks like we didn't play with a lot of intensity," Bowden said. "It looks like a lot of missed assignments.

"I guess you ought to be happy with a (23)-point win. I just see so much room for improvement, and I can't see us beating some of the teams later on our schedule with the way we played."

That would be later.

Clemson, which climbed five spots in the latest AP poll to No. 20, has its immediate sights set on another team it should beat -- nearby Furman (1-1) -- which presents a separate set of concerns, especially in the wake of Appalachian State's opening victory at Michigan.

Bowden will begin addressing such psychological issues Monday, but those could theoretically be a moot point if the Tigers fail to show improvement on run defense.

The ground game is considered Furman's primary strength, with senior fullback Jerome Felton highlighting a 1-2 punch with tailback Cedric Gipson.

The tandem is far from unstoppable; Hofstra beat the No. 9 Paladins 32-17 Saturday, limiting Felton and Gipson to a combined 54 yards on 18 carries.

But Bowden and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning would certainly like a better effort than received against ULM, which rolled up 271 rushing yards -- the most Clemson has yielded since early in the 2004 season.

Granted, there were several extenuating factors outside of tackling.

ULM starting tailback Calvin Dawson (5-foot-9, 210 pounds) drew rave reviews for his power, and his streak of seven straight 100-yard performances -- he had 121 yards and one touchdown against Clemson -- is proof of his capabilities.

All five of the Warhawks' linemen were returning starters, and they usually ran left, where their all-conference left tackle had a 50-pound advantage on the Tigers' bandit ends.

With a brief turnaround from Monday night's opening game, Clemson had little time to prepare for ULM's scheme, a hybrid of the scheme West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez implemented for Woody Dantzler at Clemson. And 117 of the 271 yards came in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers mostly used a defensive line with three freshmen making their career debuts.

Poor tackling was among the many deficiencies that contributed to last year's late slide, so now that it has reared its head again, Bowden hopes to snuff it out before the disease spreads.

"Every game we're not going to go and dominate with three-and-outs like we did the Florida State first half," Bowden said.

"It's too early to tell whether we've got it solved or not. I'm hoping at the end of the year, we're ahead of the curve."