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Bowden sees problems with Marshall

The Associated Press

It just won’t be this season.

Friday, September 03, 1999

It just won’t be this season. This year, there are more pressing matters on his mind, like how the Tigers will deal with Marshall in Saturday’s opener.

"There’s so many problems, not so much with the team, but you’ve got new staff communicating on the sidelines for the first time, you’ve got special teams, and those are things you worry about more so than lining up and running down the hill," said Bowden, who was hired in December.

He also has to figure out how to slow down a Marshall team with a clear goal – to go undefeated, just like Bowden’s Tulane team did last year.

"We have a really good chance at 13-0 this year," Marshall linebacker Giradie Mercer said. "All the pieces of the puzzle are here."

Marshall’s returning quarterback, Chad Pennington, threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. Running back Doug Chapman is aiming for his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season.

They’ll operate behind an offensive line with an enormous size advantage and the defense returns 10 starters.

"They will put a veteran team on the field with depth and that has talent," Bowden said.

In fact, Bowden said he would rather not be opening against a team the caliber of Marshall, which went 12-1 last season, won the Mid-American Conference title and beat Louisville 48-29 in the Motor City Bowl.

Clemson opened the 1998 and ’97 seasons with victories over Division I-AA teams.

"I’d like a game where I can make some mistakes … and still win by 21, 28 points," Bowden said.

That’s not a sentiment shared by the players.

"It’s really important we start off with a I-A team rather than a I-AA team," junior quarterback Brandon Streeter said. "Starting with a good I-A team like Marshall will really help us see where we are."

Win or lose, Bowden doesn’t want Clemson fans to rush to judge a team coming off a 3-8 season, its worst since 1975.

"The problems didn’t happen overnight and the problems can’t be corrected overnight," he said. "What we’ll start Saturday is a barometer for how far the program has to go."

He has confidence the Tigers, always more at ease with the run than the pass, will feel comfortable in the balanced attack that made Tulane’s offense so prolific.

"I think eventually they will. I just don’t know when they will. I think eventually we’ll put a pretty good product on the field offensively," he said.