College Football Preview: Duke at Clemson
Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2008
CLEMSON, S.C. ó Landon Walker speaks for several Clemson underclassmen who’d love for interim coach Dabo Swinney to get the job permanently.
The freshman offensive guard and his Tiger teammates can give Swinney’s candidacy a boost today with a victory over Duke (4-5, 1-4 ACC).
Walker, brought to school by former coach Tommy Bowden, thinks there’s an energy the past month in a program that had grown stale as the Tigers lost their opener to Alabama and then consecutive ACC games to Maryland and Wake Forest by mid-October.
Swinney has the Tigers thinking success, no matter the obstacles.
“The players want to play for him, they want to win,” Walker said. “I wouldn’t say that we didn’t want to win with Bowden. But sometimes, change kind of revives people a little bit and brings something they didn’t have before.”
Clemson (4-5, 2-4) has won just one of three games since Swinney took over last month.
And while the Tigers haven’t lost at home to Duke in nearly three decades, the improved Blue Devils figure to present Swinney’s group with problems in this one, too.
Duke is led by first-year coach David Cutcliffe. He’s guided quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and receiver Eron Riley into one of the ACC’s top pass catching combos.
Lewis leads the league with 207 yards passing a game. His 14 TD throws are also a conference high.
Riley is second in catches and yards per game. He’s also excelled against Clemson in the past, catching a touchdown both times he’s faced the Tigers.
Clemson gave Riley a look four years ago and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning recalls trying to lure him to his former school, Troy.
“I knew he was a good player,” Koenning said. “I can remember distinctly sitting in the library at his school trying to talk him into going to Troy. He said, ‘Where is that?’ “