Lightning strikes Blue Raiders

C.J. Spiller

CLEMSON - Lightning struck right at 6 p.m. in Death Valley Saturday night when C.J. Spiller took the opening kickoff 96 yards to kick start Clemson's 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee.

CUTigersTV: C.J. Spiller 96-yard TD



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Spiller ran just four times for 12 yards and returned two punts for 63 yards in the first half. He was held out of the second half after injuring his foot though he could have played after getting hurt on his second punt return. Coach Dabo Swinney said it was a toe injury. Spiller called it a hamstring injury.

"It's nothing to be worried about. I'll be ready to go next Thursday," he said. "I can guarantee that."

In his Clemson football debut, Kyle Parker was a very effective 9-20 for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

In the face of pressure he was very capable maneuvering around in the pocket and scrambling, racking up 44 yards rushing.

Not knowing what to expect heading into the game, Parker is relieved now that he's played in his first college game.

"Going out there, I was just going to feel it out and see what happens. I guess I have got something to measure what other games are going to be like," he said.

Jacoby Ford scored consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter. The first came on a 61-yard punt return, putting Clemson up 20-7. Parker then connected with Ford on a 43-yard scoring strike for his first career touchdown pass. After three drops in the first half, Ford was relieved to help out Parker after wiggling his way though the Middle Tennessee secondary.

But Swinney told him that he wasn't off the hook after returning the punt for six.

"He said I was still a receiver and still owed him something," Ford said. "I took that into consideration and made another play for him. I think we're even now."

He admitted that missing much of camp played a big role in the drops.


Ricky Sapp helped force an early interception by Dwight Dasher.
"I didn't really have those live bullets out there…the game slowed down for me after a while," he said.

At first, Parker was "kind of mad" about the four drops by Clemson receivers in the first half.

"I went over to Jacoby and said, ‘Just flush it, dude.' I told him that he'd have to make a atch or a play later on and he recovered," he said.

The Tiger defense slowed down the Blue Raider offense throughout the first half, not yielding any points. Clemson gave up its first touchdown after a seven play, 85 yard drive to open the second half. On the drive, Dasher completed all four of his pass attempts for 73 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to Chris McClover.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele told his players that he made two or three bad calls that put the Tigers in a bad situation. But he still wants intensity from the team, no matter what the score or situation.

"We've got to play like it's 14-12 and the conference championship is on the line during every single play, all year long," he said.

Steele said there were a lot of positive things to take from the win.

"We played with a lot of energy, cohesiveness and really, I thought, gave them some problems and dealt them some fits in the first half," he said.

Sound tackling to minimize yards after the catch made was a key Swinney mentioned earlier in the week.

"When they were able to get a drive, we missed some tackles," he said. "Overall, I'm pleased with the defense and the effort they gave today."

Richard Jackson missed a 45-yard field goal on Clemson's third possession. He was good on his next three in the first half (19, 22, 44) before missing from 48 in the fourth quarter.

DeAndre McDaniel intercepted Dasher on the third play of Middle Tennessee's opening drive. McDaniel finished the night with 12 tackles. His big hit on Clemson's first kick off built a lot of momentum for his big night.

"Big hits are going to motivate everybody. The crowd, the players and the coaches," he said. "I think that hit set the tone."

Dasher was intercepted by Chris Chancellor and Brandon Maye, who had a game high 13 tackles. Wearing the No. 17 jersey to honor Stanley Hunter, Maye thought he did well honoring his teammate.

"I give thanks to God for putting that in my heart to wear Stanley's jersey," Maye said. "I feel like I've got to come out every game and play like that—with a chip on my shoulder."

The win was Clemson's first goal for 2009. Swinney is happy to check that one off, as he looks forward to moving onto the next four.

"I'm really proud of the effort…we did a lot of good things in all areas," he said.

Though Willy Korn's only passing attempt was an interception and fumbled on his first series, Swinney said he'll continue to have an important role.

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