Clemson moved into game-preparation mode Tuesday with the end of preseason practice. Beginning with today's scrimmage at Death Valley, coach Tommy Bowden says the focus is clearly on the Aug. 30 home opener against No. 9 Georgia:
"After Wednesday the pegs will be in the holes. We will be in preparation for Georgia and we should have most of the starting spots determined. There probably will be some battles that won't be decided until next Thursday, but Wednesday is the last scrimmage opportunity to make a statement."
I can't wait for the 30th.
WAKE-UP CALL FOR LEAKE: Linebacker John Leake says new linebackers coach David Blackwell is pushing him to play better by threatening to yank his starting job. Seems like it worked, too.
MEET DEJUAN POLK: The Anderson Independent Mail continues its series on lesser-known Tigers. Here's a Q&A with defensive tackle DeJuan Polk.
DON'T JINX IT: This story discusses how the Tigers have avoided major injuries in the preseason (unlike Georgia, which has been decimated). Damn it, don't they know you're not supposed to write anything like this when things are going well?
SEASON PREVIEW: The Greenville News apparently published its big football preview section the other day. Stories on Clemson are here and here.
NOTEBOOK TIME: This one from the Greenville News features an item on massive defensive tackle Donnell Washington, who has yet to play up to his potential. And this one from The State leads with Bowden urging Washington to play as hard as DeJuan Polk.
ASK AND RECEIVE: The State's Ken Tysiac keeps answering questions. Give them a look.
TV FLASHBACKS: Get your VCRs ready, because Clemson is going to be all over ESPN Classic in the next two weeks.
First off, the 1999 "Bowden Bowl" game between Clemson and Florida State airs today at 5 p.m. ET. That's another game I attended that ended in a tough loss. Another close, tough defeat, last season's Clemson-Georgia game (a so-called "Instant Classic"), airs on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 3 p.m. ET.
On Thursday, Aug. 28, the 1983 Clemson-Georgia game, which ended in a 16-16 tie, airs at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the thrilling 1987 Clemson-Georgia contest, which the Tigers won 21-20. I was at both of those as well. If I remember correctly, the '83 game was the one where both teams attempted 60-plus-yard field goals in the final seconds.
And there are TWO MORE classic CU-Georgia games on Friday, Aug. 29. The 1986 game, a 31-28 Tiger victory, is on at 3 p.m. It's followed at 5 p.m. by the 1984 contest, a 26-23 loss.
I didn't go to the '86 game, but my father and I attended the '84 meeting in Athens, and we got an up-close and personal look at Georgia fans in their native habitat. I was wearing shorts that day and had a huge bandage on my leg from a big scrape. I'd acquired it playing soccer in a P.E. class on the artificial turf at Appalachian State, my alma mater. (In a side note, Bob Pollack, Clemson's great track coach, was my instructor. He was at ASU then.)
Anyway, as we were leaving Sanford Stadium, I must have had 20 drunken rednecks gleefully point out my bandage with some variation of "looks like you got you a big dog bite there, boy!" God, they were obnoxious. We endured much more taunting on the walk to the car, and got the bird flipped at us a few times by the overalls-wearing hicks who lined the highway back to I-85. Very nice. I guess that's sportsmanship and Southern hospitality, Clarke County style.
Yes, I hate Georgia. But I'll still watch the 1980 Georgia-Florida game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23., on ESPN Classic. The Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott touchdown pass in the dying seconds is one of the great moments in college football history, as was Georgia radio man Larry Munson's unforgettable "Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!" call.