3:30 PM ET, September 2, 2006
Memorial Stadium, CLEMSON, SC
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Will Proctor waited so long to lead Clemson, he couldn't help getting nervous as he took the field. It took a couple of passes to an old friend to settle him down and bring the 18th-ranked Tigers a victory.
Proctor passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, the first to fellow senior Chansi Stuckey, and Clemson beat Florida Atlantic 54-6 on Saturday. Proctor sat for four seasons behind Tiger star Charlie Whitehurst, doing little more than mop up duty against overmatched opponents.
This was Proctor's first time as Clemson's full-time quarterback and his emotions caught up with him as he warmed up.
"Obviously, at first there were a few jitters, more anxiety to get the game going," Proctor said.
The edginess showed. Proctor's first drive ended when he collided with tailback James Davis and fumbled. A series later, Proctor took the Tigers to Florida Atlantic's 7, but settled for a 25-yard field goal.
After Proctor's first two throws were batted down at the line the next drive, he found his rhythm and the Tigers put up their highest point total since a 63-17 win over South Carolina in 2003.
Stuckey had a 12-yard reception and C.J. Spiller a 10-yarder. Two plays later, Proctor lofted a perfect pass to Stuckey for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Proctor watched Stuckey, the ACC's top pass-catcher in 2005, tiptoe near the back of the end zone for the TD, then the quarterback pumped his fists in celebration and rushed to hug his receiver. The two had come in together in 2002 as quarterbacks before Stuckey was moved to wideout.
"I've known him a long time," Stuckey said. "Of course, he was going to be a little nervous. But he was able to overcome it."
Proctor plays with enthusiasm and felt a large weight disappear once the official signaled the score. "I was extremely happy," he said. "I just threw it up there for him and he made a great catch."
The most emotion in the first half, though, came from coach Tommy Bowden, who angrily took on four officials after a Tiger fumble ended a second-quarter series and the coach didn't get the chance for a review.
Bowden rushed the field during a stoppage, then ripped off his headphones and punched the air as he yelled his objections. Bowden continued arguing at least three more times, jawing with field judge Gorham Wood, line judge Kevin Edwards, referee Brad Allen and back judge James Cole.
Bowden wouldn't talk much about the tirade, only that he thought his challenge was wrongly disallowed. Asked what the official said to him as yelled, "He said no," Bowden quipped.
Bowden's very loud point proved moot three plays later when Florida Atlantic's attempt at a hook-and-ladder play was bobbled by tailback B.J. Manley and safety Michael Hamlin recovered for Clemson at the FAU 26. The turnover led to Reggie Merriweather 1-yard touchdown and put Clemson ahead 17-0.
The victory could be costly after linebacker Anthony Waters, their leading tackler last year who considered skipping his senior year for the NFL, was carried off the field with a sprained left knee late in the third quarter and Clemson up 31-6. The results of Waters' MRI were expected to be known Sunday.
Sean Clayton led the Owls on their most successful first-half drive to Clemson's 11. But Clemson's Hamlin stopped that drive as well, with a 74-yard interception return. That led to a 14-yard TD pass from Proctor to Aaron Kelly.
Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger apologized his club couldn't make the game more appealing. The Owls follow this game with trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina. "We've got a mountain of work to do," Schnellenberger said. "But we've got 105 willing laborers. Some are unskilled. Some are skilled and some will be artists" before they're done.
Jacoby Ford added a school record 92-yard punt return touchdown for Clemson in the fourth quarter. The run broke the mark of 90 set by Shad Bryant in 1938 and matched by Bobby Gage 10 years later, although the school lists a missed field goal return of 108 yards in 1968 as its punt mark.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... FAU rushed for -3 yards in its first series. It was Clemson's ballgame after that.
Gameball goes to... Sergio Gilliam. Let's hear it for Clemson's senior CB, who returned a fumble 32 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game... 3: Charlie Whitehurst left some big shoes to fill, but Will Proctor put up a good game. He finished with three TDs and an interception.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-18||8-13|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||1-1|
|FG||4:17||JAD DEAN 25 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||0:11||CHANSI STUCKEY 30 YD PASS FROM WILL PROCTOR (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||7:26||REGGIE MERRIWEATHER 1 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 26 yards.
|TD||0:43||AARON KELLY 14 YD PASS FROM WILL PROCTOR (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 30 yards.
|FG||10:48||WARLEY LEROY 24 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 31 yards.
|FG||9:08||WARLEY LEROY 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 1 yards.
|TD||6:09||JAMES DAVIS 22 YD RUN (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 83 yards.
|TD||2:08||RENDRICK TAYLOR 18 YD PASS FROM WILL PROCTOR (JAD DEAN KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 18 yards.
|FG||14:00||JAD DEAN 45 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 20 yards.
|TD||9:40||JACOBY FORD 92 YD PUNT RETURN (MISSED KICK)||6||47|
|TD||5:19||SERGIO GILLIAM 31 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (JAD DEAN KICK)||6||54|