Utah State 6

(2-5, 1-3 away)

Clemson 35

(2-4, 2-1 home)

1:00 PM ET, October 16, 2004

Memorial Stadium (Clemson, SC), Clemson, SC

1 2 3 4 T
USU 0 0 0 66
CLEM 0 7 14 1435

Top Performers

Passing: C. Whitehurst (CLEM) - 179 YDS, 2 INT

Rushing: R. Merriweather (CLEM) - 18 CAR, 84 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: K. Robinson (USU) - 4 REC, 85 YDS

Clemson 35, Utah State 6

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- It was hard to tell who was happier at Death Valley -- the Clemson defenders who came up with 11 sacks or the Tiger runners who hit for three of the four rushing touchdowns.

Or it might have been Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who after a month of defeats that took his team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference title race, was glad for any kind of victory.

"It's been a long time since we've had that taste," he said.

Whether the 35-6 victory over Utah State can give the struggling Tigers (2-4) the edge to turn around the season is another matter.

"I think it can," said defensive lineman Eric Coleman, part of Clemson's sack attack. "This heals a little. But it doesn't take away everything that happened."

Clemson entered the year in the top 25, a solid pick to contend with Miami and Florida State in the expanded ACC. But consecutive losses to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Florida State and Virginia left the Tigers reeling and far out of the national picture.

Bowden was sure his team had the talent to succeed. Its psyche, though, was badly in need of repair. Enter the Aggies (2-5), a Sun Belt Conference opponent going through almost as awful a stretch as Clemson with its fourth loss in five games.

After some first-half errors, the team got rolling.

Charles Bennett, Trey Tate and Gaines Adams each had two of the team's 11 sacks, a high for Bowden's six seasons and one shy of the school record set in 1996. The starting front four had not recorded a sack before Saturday.

"It wasn't much spoken," defensive end Maurice Fountain said of the lack of sacks. "But you could see the focus all week" on getting pressure on the quarterback.

Clemson's defense kept Utah State to minus-20 yards rushing. Starting quarterback Travis Cox was 12 of 23 for 90 yards for the Aggies. Utah State's best chance to put a scare into the Tigers ended when Jamaal Fudge intercepted a halfback pass near the goal line in the first quarter.

Utah State coach Mick Dennehy thought the trick might work with the way Clemson's defense was attacking. "It would've been nice to get the ball in the end zone first," he said.

Instead, the Tigers took control on the ground. Reggie Merriweather had two of Clemson's four rushing touchdowns. The Tigers had just three TDs on the ground in its first five games.

Merriweather had 84 yards, Duane Coleman added 82 and the Tigers ended with 200 yards -- more than their passing total of 179. It was the first time in 15 games, Clemson had gained more yards rushing than through the air.

The Tigers went into halftime up 7-0 in front of a near full house of 77,500 that was eager to cheer a blowout. Bowden looked for signs of his defenders complaining about the lack of offense. He heard none. Instead, Bowden said the defense came out even harder after the break and gave Clemson the time to get going. "I was really pleased with the way they played," he said.

One of the biggest problems Bowden talked about this week was the offense not controlling the ball enough, leading to a tired defense trying to hold opponents. The four touchdowns -- and the way the Tigers ground them out -- were a welcome sight for the club.

"It helps the defense out tremendously," Duane Coleman said. "Let's just hope this carries over."

Confidence-wise, it's sure to, said quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who completed 15 of his 23 throws for 179 yards and two interceptions. "It's a lot more fun to work, to practice. (A win) can do a lot for you," he said.

That's what happened a year ago. An up-and-down Clemson finally came together at the end of the season with a four-game run for the ages. It started with a win over nationally ranked Florida State and continued all the way through to the Peach Bowl and a rousing victory over Tennessee.

No one in Clemson's relieved locker room was predicting such great things this time.

"All it takes is one win," said Coleman, the tailback. "One win at a time, and before you know it you're on a streak."