Clemson University

Bowden says Tigers need improvement

CLEMSON -- Undefeated? Absolutely. Polished and complete? Not even close.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden counted up the missed tackles and botched assignments in last week's game with Louisiana-Monroe and said Tuesday that his 20th-ranked Tigers have a lot of improvements to make.

Sure, Clemson is 2-0. But Bowden said he knows the Tigers have got to do more if they want to keep winning.

"They don't give out championships for winning two games," he said.

The Tigers take on Furman, a Football Championship Subdivision from the same conference as Appalachian State at home on Saturday. Before then, Bowden will have his players cracking pads and cranking up the intensity.

The coach's early season complaints are numerous: his defenders let too many ball carriers go free, the offensive line needs to get nastier and finish blocks, and everyone has to sharpen up their assignments.

Clemson's rush defense is near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The team is averaging more than 50 yards in penalties, also in the ACC's second tier.

"We know we're not a complete football team yet," said Tiger tailback C.J. Spiller.

But you could view Clemson's glass as filling up fast.

Clemson took on the Warhawks five days after a nationally televised, 24-18 win over Florida State -- and still won by more than three touchdowns.

Quarterback Cullen Harper, a first-year starter, has had a stunning debut with seven TD passes -- including a school-record five Saturday in the 49-26 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Those included a 52-yard score to Jacoby Ford and a 68-yard strike to Spiller.

The Tigers' defense held the run-oriented Warhawks to 135 yards rushing and held a 42-13 lead after three quarters.

That's when things fell apart. Louisiana-Monroe ran for 136 yards and two TDs in the final quarter.

"I was disappointed," said Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who counted "19 critical mistakes" that cost the team nearly 300 yards.

And he wasn't the only distraught member of the Koenning clan. Clemson's third-year coordinator said his father talked to him right after the game. His words? "There go your stats."

Koenning admitted several errors were made by second and third stringers. But if Clemson continues its fast-scoring offense, the defense will need support from its youngest, most inexperienced members, he said.

Clemson offensive lineman Thomas Austin thinks it won't take long to correct the errors.

The Tigers had an unusual week with games on Monday night and Saturday. Practices were fewer and rest time hard to come by. The welcome routine of Saturday games will give Clemson's players the chance to develop.

Bowden and offensive line coach Brad Scott emphasized the offensive linemen need to get nastier, Austin said.

Last year's group featured seniors such as Nathan Bennett -- a guy who once got into a scuffle on his recruiting visit and would look to get in an extra hit or two when he could.

Austin thinks Clemson's offensive line now is uncovering its nasty side. "I felt we got the job done, but watching film you could see we didn't take the extra steps," Austin said. "But we've got the potential to do it."

Until Bowden and his assistants see that in games, he'll continue harping on the foul-ups, no matter how many wins the Tigers rack up.

"We're not a very polished team," he said. "We've got a whole lot of improving to do."

FURMAN (1-1, 0-0 SOUTHERN) AT NO. 20 CLEMSON (2-0, 1-0 ACC)

• When: 1 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

• TV: None

• Tickets: Available at 1-800-CLEMSON