USU - Clemson Notebook

Michael Collins

CLEMSON – All season, the Clemson coaching staff has been waiting for a wide receiver other than Airese Currie to make some big plays. <BR><BR>

They thought they had one in Chansi Stuckey following his big game against Wake Forest in the season opener. But since that time, Stuckey has been almost non-existent.

Enter junior Michael Collins, who got the start due to Stuckey having a pulled hamstring and Kelvin Grant being suspended for missing class.

Collins, who transferred from Tennessee two years ago, got his first start of his career and he made the most of it.

The Commerce, Ga. native played in all 13 games last season, but tallied just four receptions for 49 yards, with his long going for 16 yards.

During the first half against Utah State Saturday, Collins was key in Clemson's lone touchdown of the first half. He had two catches on one drive totaling 27 yards, and for the half he had five receptions, besting last year's total, for 52 yards.

He finished the game six catches for 64 yards.

"It felt great to make a contribution catching the football," Collins said. "The coaches had confidence in me and Charlie (Whitehurst) did a great job of finding me when I was open. A game like this really has me looking ahead. It gives me the confidence that I can make a difference and it gives the coaches confidence to call my number."

TEAM BUS INVOLVED IN WRECK
The Clemson team bus and the police car head coach Tommy Bowden was riding in were involved in an accident prior to the start of the game.

With the team sitting on the team bus and Bowden sitting in a police car in front of the bus, both vehicles started to make their way from outside the locker room to the other side of the stadium to the hill where the team makes its entrance.

But someone forgot to tell the bus driver the protocol for the procession.

The police car with Bowden, and the team bus started to leave at the same time and as a result, the bus plowed into the side of the patrol car, caving in the entire front fender of the car and doing $3,000 worth of damage.

The patrol car limped around to the other side of the stadium to let Bowden out at the top of the hill. The bus made it as well.

"I about got killed before the game," Bowden said with a laugh. "Usually we go out first, but we were just sitting there and the bus came over and took off the front half of the police car."

SPECIAL TEAMS ARE SPECIAL
For the third time this season, Clemson blocked a punt in a game, but the difference this time was that it didn't go out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

When sophomore Gaines Adams blocked the punt of Ben Chaet, junior defensive end Bobby Williamson recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. It was the second touchdown of his career.

The team record for most blocked punts in a season is five, which took place in 1944.

The other aspect where the Tigers excelled in special teams was on punt coverage, where they held Kevin Robinson, the nation's leading punt returner, to one return for minus-one yard.

Duane Coleman and Reggie Merriweather led a potent rushing attack Saturday against Utah State.
Then on a punt return in the fourth quarter, Justin Miller almost added to his return for touchdown this year for Clemson, but he was tripped up by the last defender between him and the goal lone.

Miller has three returns for scores this year.

A TRUE HOMECOMING
Saturday's game against Utah State was a homecoming for Clemson in more ways than one.

The Tigers hadn't played a home game in 34 days, dating back to Sept. 11, when they played Georgia Tech. It was also the 81st homecoming game in Clemson history.

Since Clemson's first homecoming game in 1922, the Tigers are a combined 59-18-3. Moreover, the Tigers are 29-3-2 in homecoming games since 1971, with the only losses coming to Georgia Tech in 1989, Virginia in 1997 and North Carolina in 2001.

RUNNING GAME EMERGES
Clemson came into Saturday's game having had trouble running the ball with any consistency. At the same time, the Aggies entered the game ranked 115th in the country in rushing yards allowed.

It seemed to be the perfect time to fix the Tigers rushing woes. And Clemson coach Tommy Bowden took advantage of the situation.

In the first quarter, three tailbacks for Clemson carried the ball nine times for a total of 54 yards. However, the surprising part was that Kyle Browning had a carry and senior Yusef Kelly did not.

The rushing trend continued in the second quarter as the three backs entered halftime with 20 carries for 93 yards and a rushing touchdown.

By the time the third quarter was complete, the tailbacks had ran with it 32 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

When the final horn sounded, the all four of the running backs had carried the ball and finished with a combined total of 174 yards and four touchdowns on 42 attempts.

"With a running back, with just one or two carries, you can't get a feel for the game," Merriweather said. "The back-to-back carries, that's what a running back needs. Hopefully (Bowden) will come back to it next week."

TURNOVER WATCH
Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst continued his interception streak by throwing one in his 11th consecutive game and his 13th of the season.

All told, Whitehurst has started 24 games and thrown 31 picks.

EXTRA POINTS
Clemson Tight end Ben Hall injured his arm in the third quarter and didn't return. … Whitehurst's 26-yard dash in the third quarter was the longest of his career. … Backup quarterback Will Proctor got in late in the fourth quarter, as did punter Chris Wiksell, a graduate student who got on the field for the first time in his career.

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