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
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
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.