Five games and two losses into the season, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden is defending himself, his program, and his offensive coordinator.
This, from the coach who just got a contract extension and was the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the program's first ACC title since 1991.
“We're the team to beat," senior safety Michael Hamlin said this summer. "We've got nothing but weapons."
Problem is, the staff didn't quite seem to know what to do with them last weekend in a 20-17 home loss to Maryland.
I was there. I saw what happened in the first quarter. In fact, it will be difficult to forget. Clemson ran the ball against Maryland as effortlessly as you and I walk out the front door.
The first play of the game was an 11-yard run by James Davis, off the left tackle. The second play of the game was a 12-yard run by Davis, this time off right tackle. The sixth play of the drive was C.J. Spiller, around the left end for 18 yards.
But on third-and-three from Maryland's 9-yard line, they threw it -- an incomplete, out-of-bounds pass, and that otherwise impressive drive ended in a field goal.
On the following possession they figured it out. Seven of nine plays were runs, and a nine-play, 95-yard drive was capped with a 35-yard touchdown run by Spiller, who ran off left tackle and around the end.
Clemson 10, Maryland 0.
They should have done it all game. Over and over. In the first half Davis and Spiller combined for 21 carries and 193 yards. But in the second half, they had 10 carries and 31 yards. Total.
Bowden's answer as to why they didn't get more second-half carries after the game was, "I just don't think you can go out there and run the ball up and down the field and just move it and score at will when you play good teams."
We're not talking about the USC defense, or even Virginia Tech. We're talking about Maryland, a program whose defensive coordinator has faced scrutiny since the day he arrived in College Park and hasn't had a defense finish better than ninth in total defense or 10th in rushing defense. The Terps entered the Clemson game ranked 11th in the ACC in total defense, allowing 391.2 yards per game…
Clemson's Tommy Bowden reacts after a play was called back for holding during the game against Maryland, Saturday Sept. 27, 2008, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Maryland upset No. 20 Clemson 20-17. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Clemson's C.J. Spiller (28) runs into the end zone for a 35 yard touchdown run as Maryland's Jeff Allen (29) looks on during the first half and James Davis just runs and runs and runs Sept. 27, 2008, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photos/Mary Ann Chastain) .