Given time to sort through the video tape and the disappointment of Clemson's 34-10 loss to No. 24 Alabama on Saturday night, Tigers coach Tommy Bowden didn't stumble onto any great revelations.
No matter the perspective, the hard truth remained.
Alabama ran 80 offensive plays to Clemson's 48.
The Tigers finished with 0 rushing yards.
In a game in which he challenged his team to defend its No.9 preseason ranking, Bowden saw his Tigers physically dominated by the Crimson Tide in the nationally televised season opener.
“They pretty well whipped us up front on both sides of the ball,” Bowden said Sunday.
“I really haven't seen us manhandled defensively like that in the last three or four years.”
It was exactly what Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted his team to do.
“We were more physical than them,” Saban said.
All Bowden's film study did was reinforce the one-sided reality.
The immediate challenge for Bowden is to refocus his team for a season that took a knockout punch in the first game.
It would be one thing to have lost a close, competitive game to Alabama, but the Tigers were barely competitive. Other than a 96-yard C.J. Spiller kickoff return to start the second half, the Tigers were ineffective.
They trailed 13-0 after Alabama's first three possessions and the tone for the evening had been established.
“It starts up front and we couldn't get the job done,” Clemson center Thomas Austin said.
Bowden said he and his coaches will reevaluate the offensive line, which had four new starters, but he didn't suggest specific changes.
More than tactical adjustments, Bowden and his staff must direct the Tigers' attention toward their Saturday home opener against The Citadel, which should, theoretically, help rinse away some of the disappointment.
Though Clemson's poor performance was unexpected, it was not unprecedented, a point Bowden intends to hammer home.
“You play 12 games, you don't play one,” he said.
“An example our players will be able to relate to is Virginia Tech against LSU last year. (The Hokies) were physically whipped 42-7 and they still won our conference.
“You can't quit after one game. There is still a lot to be accomplished.”
Bowden also cited Southern California's shocking loss to 40-point underdog Stanford last season as an example of unexpected results. The Trojans, he said, had a national championship on the line when they were taken down by a flat performance.
To get past the Alabama debacle, Bowden intends to use what happened as motivation.
“You appeal to their pride,” he said. “It's surely not the first time this has happened in college football or in my career or at Clemson.
“They'll bounce back and play well.”
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