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Nice win, but still no guarantees for Bowden

11/12/2003

No, to answer your question, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden didn't receive a contract extension, a vote of confidence or so much as a Balloon-A-Gram on the day after the Tigers stunned No. 3 Florida State, 26-10, in Bowden Bowl V. Clemson had never beaten Florida State in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and had never beaten a team ranked so high.

"I coach from week to week," Bowden said Sunday evening. "Try to win as many games as I can."

Think back to a year ago, when Texas A&M upset No. 1 Oklahoma, 30-26. The move to ouster longtime coach R.C. Slocum hit the pause button. One week later, the Aggies lost to Missouri, 33-27, in overtime, and Slocum is no longer the coach of Texas A&M. All of which means Clemson had better beat 3-7 Duke this week.

In a season in which so many highly ranked teams have suffered big losses -- Virginia Tech to West Virginia, 28-7; Miami to Virginia Tech, 31-7; Texas to Oklahoma, 65-13, Nebraska to Texas, 31-7 -- Bowden thought his team could slip up on the Seminoles. He thought that even though Clemson had just been humiliated at Wake Forest, 45-17.

"I didn't know if this was coming, but I thought the timing was right," Bowden said. "I gave my team several instances where a highly ranked team got beat. It was a great opportunity. It's all timing."

Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden is a worrier, and he knew last week that his Seminoles were about to walk into a trap.

"Everybody is telling us how bad Clemson is," Bobby said last Thursday. "I'm just watching their Georgia Tech tape. Georgia Tech had us 13-0 with 10 minutes to go. How do you explain (Clemson winning) 39-3 against Georgia Tech? Beating Virginia? We beat Virginia by five and Clemson did by three."

A closer look at the Tigers, now 6-4 and 4-3 in the ACC, reveals why they have been so unpredictable. They are suffering a deficiency of Vitamin E -- experience.

"We've got 19 of our first 22 coming back on defense, and 18 of our first 22 coming back on offense," Tommy said. "We have a freshman punter and a freshman kicker. The quarterback is a sophomore. It's going to pay dividends at some point in time."

The father-son angle to the rivalry has been a focal point of attention for the media. The Bowden clan vacations together every summer on the Florida panhandle. Next summer, Tommy won't have to hear from his brothers and his father about who won.

But other than that, did it really mean that much to Tommy?

"Oh, yes," he said, "for the simple fact that you beat Florida State. He's the top I-A coach in the history of college football. When you beat one of his teams, you've beaten the best."

Bobby Bowden's loss may have help his son keep his job. Bobby said last week that he didn't know how precarious his son's position was. But he compared it to his next-to-last season at West Virginia, 1974, when the Mountaineers went 4-7.

"They were wanting me to get fired," Bobby said, referring to the universal "they."

"We had moving fans show up. We had 'For Sale' signs put in our yard. They chanted 'Bye, Bye, Bobby.' Then I heard of meetings they (boosters) were having. The people who stood behind me were the president, the athletic director and the athletic council.

"The biggest thing that has happened to college football today compared to 25 years ago is that these boosters who give so much money say, 'I'm not going to give a million dollars unless the coach is fired.' You've got to have a tough-minded president."

The second biggest thing that has happened to college football is the rapid turnover in presidents and athletic directors. Both president James F. Barker and athletic director Terry Don Phillips have been hired since Tommy Bowden came to Clemson five seasons ago. The Tigers are 25-17 under Bowden, and haven't had a losing season.

One more thing: the season after Bobby Bowden went 4-7, West Virginia went 9-3. If the boosters who wanted him fired then loved him again, they had to do it from afar. Bobby left for Florida State.

Rich Boosters, Part II
If Bobby Bowden is right and the boosters who give the money call the shots, then Penn State legend Joe Paterno and his 2-8 record ought to be safe. JoePa and his wife Sue have donated $4 million to Penn State.

Mr. Dependable
He could have been just another college football fan sprawled on his couch Saturday night, watching Clemson upset Florida State, his wife beside him and the baby just put to bed. But just another college football fan won't be making the 49th start of his career this week against the Seminoles. Sometime in the first quarter, North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers will take the snap on his 3,000th play.

"That's a unique, different kind of accomplishment," Rivers said from his home in Raleigh. "That means a lot to me. There's no question I've been fortunate. I've had injuries, been banged up. Oh, I'm telling you, it would take something major to keep me out of the game. My friends would tell you the same thing. I don't want to miss anything. I don't want to take a nap during the day. I want to be where the action is, a video game or whatever. That's just my nature. I want to make sure I'm out there."

The freshman who went through his first seven-on-seven drill, and wondered if he would ever complete a pass, has completed 1,066 of them. Rivers has thrown for 12,311 yards, fifth in NCAA history. He leads the nation in passing accuracy (72.2 percent) this year and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

The Wolfpack began the season as a fashionable pick to win the ACC and finish in the top 10. A 3-3 start shelved national aspirations for the team and made Rivers an afterthought in the Heisman Trophy race. Without a steady hand at the wheel, the team could have run the season off the road.

"The coaching staff kept pushing us," Rivers said. "There are still goals to shoot for. Georgia Tech is the loss (29-21 to fall to 3-3) that hurt the most. What are we going to do? What do we play for? We hung in there. The way I look at it, last year we went 11-3 and we had all three losses at the end of the year. This year, we got our three early in the year. Let's win 10 games again. We (NC State) had never done it before last year. Let's do it two years in a row."

North Carolina State has beaten Florida State the last two seasons. Rivers has a comfort level against the Seminoles because Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato brought the Florida State defensive scheme with him when he came from Tallahassee four years ago.

"I've been playing against that defense for four years, every single practice," Rivers said. "I'm watching (the Clemson-FSU game) as a fan. I look at stuff like the players' mannerisms. You get to see things that aren't on (game) tape, like how they run around. Sometimes you catch signals."

If North Carolina State makes it three in a row over Florida State, Rivers may fly back onto Heisman radar. His numbers are worthy. Rivers, asked how he would cast a Heisman vote, mentioned Oklahoma quarterback Jason White and Pittsburgh wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

"There's no question that they deserve to be up there," Rivers said. "I've watched college football forever and been a big fan. The numbers and the consistency that Jason White has is the reason they've been winning. Fitzgerald puts up huge numbers."

If North Carolina State finishes with victories over Florida State and Maryland, the only other two-loss team in the ACC, the Wolfpack will tie the Seminoles for the conference championship.

The Vodoo Dolls Are Working
Since Boston College bolted the Big East for the ACC, the Eagles and the other two schools skipping town, Miami and Virginia Tech, are a collective 3-7. All three of them lost Saturday.

ADs Are Supposed To Make Tough Decisions
When the Southeastern Conference expanded to 12 teams before the 1992 season, the athletic directors had to decide how to break ties in the two divisions.

"We had gone through all the scenarios and got to the seventh tiebreaker," Georgia
athletic director Vince Dooley said, "and we didn't think it would happen. After about a whole day of working on it, we thought that the scenario wouldn't come up, but if it did, the athletic directors would decide."

The vote may have been an afterthought, but in a sport ruled by a mathematical formula, that vote stood as a reassuring watchdog.

The biggest problem the BCS has is that human beings aren't allowed to apply common sense to correct whatever two teams the formula spits out. In virtually every other sport on campus, selection of teams for postseason playoffs is overseen, if not actually made, by a committee. That's why the SEC's plan for breaking the possible three-way tie of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in the Eastern Division passed the smell test. If the first six tiebreakers won't do the job, the eight athletic directors not involved in the SEC Championship Game (the three from those schools and the athletic director from the West champion) would select the East representative.

However, in a classic case of CYA, the athletic directors decided Friday to rely instead on the BCS rating. The team with the highest rating will go, with one exception. If a second team is within five places of the highest-rated team, the second team won the game between the two, then the second team will be the SEC East champion.

"You're subject to a lot of criticism," Dooley said. "You could have a little bit of opinion in there, but then you get politicking. I would not have done it. If that becomes a factor, it's not fair if one school is doing it and the other is not. Then you got the fans. They would all (wonder) why one athletic director voted against us."

C'mon, y'all. That's why you get paid the big money -- to make the big decisions.

Mr. Jones And The Irish
Julius Jones is quiet by nature, and given that the Notre Dame fifth-year tailback spent the 2002 season enrolled at Arizona State while living with his brother Thomas, a running back for the Arizona Cardinals, he didn't bring a whole lot of leadership to the Irish last August.

"Me being out for a year," Jones said after the 27-24 defeat of Navy Saturday, "I didn't feel like I could come in there and tell them what they are going to do. I try to lead with my actions."

But even the quietest speak out when provoked. In the third quarter, Navy linebacker Eddie Carthan walked up to the line of scrimmage on quarterback Brady Quinn's blind (left side). Quinn never saw him, and no one ever blocked him. Carthan, Quinn and Jones all met as Quinn handed the ball to Jones at the Irish 8. Carthan nailed Jones for a nine-yard loss.

Jones jumped up and could be seen delivering a message to the offensive line. It wasn't a welcome speech.

"We just needed to concentrate," Jones said afterward. "Everybody kind of got flustered. All we needed to do is concentrate and do what we do."

Jones gained 221 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 33 attempts against the
Midshipmen. Against Pittsburgh, he rushed for a school record 262 yards. In the Irish's 27-24 victory over Navy on Saturday, Jones rushed for 221 yards on a career-high 33 carries.

In those two games, Jones has rushed for 483 yards and four touchdowns. In his remaining seven games, Jones has rushed for 352 yards and four touchdowns. He will never fulfill the potential he brought to Notre Dame five seasons ago. Any chance the senior tailback had for this season withered because of the inexperience on the offensive line. But he has given a glimpse of what might have been.

Jones, a sparkly stud in each ear, moved slowly after the game. But the stiffness melted in the warmth of his postgame smile.

"This is why I came to Notre Dame," he said, "to play in games like this and be part of the tradition."

Thousand Points Of Light
By now, you've seen the sprint by Minnesota field goal kicker Rhys Lloyd after his game-winning, buzzer-beating field goal in the Golden Gophers' 37-34 defeat of Wisconsin. Lloyd sprinted straight to the Wisconsin sideline, leapt over the bench and grabbed the Paul Bunyan Axe, the trophy in this long rivalry. Among the more serious runners in the Minnesota lineup, freshman Laurence Maroney, who rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown against the Badgers, has 921 yards this season. Before the season began, Minnesota already had become the first school to have four 1,000-yard career rushers (Asad Abdul-Khaliq, Thomas Tapeh, Terry Jackson II, Marion Barber III) on its roster. Now the Gophs are about to become the first team with five.

Just F.Y.I.
Notre Dame's field goal on the last play of the game prevented Navy from playing its first overtime game in the eight years since Division I-A adopted the rule. Only two other schools have failed to earn extra playing time: North Texas and Tulsa. ... Virginia Tech lost the game, but the block that Marcus Vick laid on Pittsburgh free safety Corey Humphries to spring Kevin Jones for the run that gave the junior tailback the Hokies' single-game rushing record won't be forgotten soon. Jones had 30 carries for 241 yards, 18 more than the mark set by Kenny Lewis in 1978. ... Northwestern's 17-7 defeat of Penn State raised the Wildcats' record to 5-5 and kept their bowl hopes alive, which is bad news for any independent or other bowl-eligible team without access to an automatic berth. The Big Ten has a good shot at putting two teams in BCS bowls, and the league has only seven automatic berths. But Northwestern would be the eighth Big Ten team to qualify for a bowl. Then again, if Miami (Ohio) goes to the Motor City Bowl to play the last Big Ten qualifier, Northwestern would be an unlikely opponent. The RedHawks beat the Wildcats earlier this year, 44-14, and bowls don't like rematches.

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Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.