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College Sports: NO. 15 Clemson escapes in double OT

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posted on Sep, 5 2004 @ 12:26 PM
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden told backup running back Kyle Browning to be ready against Wake Forest.

"You never know," Bowden told Browning the day before the game, "you just may be the star of the show."

Browning made the coach's prediction come true, catching an 11-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime that gave No. 15 Clemson a 37-30 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.

Charlie Whitehurst connected with running back Kyle Browning in double overtime for the winning touchdown. (Grant Halverson / GettyImages)

Bowden used the winning play several times last season with Duane Coleman, the team's top rusher from 2003 recovering from a broken foot.

Browning has a similar build and is nearly as elusive as Coleman - and proved to be just as much of a playmaker for the Tigers in their opener against an Atlantic Coast Conference rival.

On second down, Browning slipped through the line as Whitehurst was chased backwards by design. Whitehurst hit Browning on the hands and the junior took it in for the winning score.

"Once I caught the ball and turned around, I knew I had to get to the end zone," Browning said. "It was just a good feeling because coach Bowden during the time out told me to go win it for us."

A win was in serious doubt for the Tigers much of the game.

They led 19-3 early in the second quarter and looked intent on beating the Demon Deacons as thoroughly as the Tigers got beat in a 45-17 defeat at Wake Forest a season ago. But the Deacons (0-1) rallied for 24 straight points and led 27-19 after Chris Barclay's 50-yard touchdown run with 12:20 to go in the game.

The Tigers rediscovered their offense when it counted.

Whitehurt, starting at his 22 with 6:35 left, completed passes of 16 and 19 yards to Chansi Stuckey, then hit Airese Currie with an 8-yard completion to get inside Wake's 10. A pass interference call on fourth-and-goal kept the drive alive and Yusef Kelly leaped over the pile from a yard out with for Clemson's first points in nearly 40 minutes.

Kelvin Grant pulled down the tying conversion on a perfectly lofted ball into the left corner of the end zone to send things into overtime.

"I was disappointed they were able to drive down the field at the end," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "We'll get a little tougher and saltier from this experience."

The teams traded field goals in the first extra session. Then Whitehurst found Browning on a slip screen pass to give Clemson the lead.

"He's an itty-bitty guy, hard to see out there," Bowden said.

Browning didn't know if Whitehurst could see him in the left side. "Then I saw the ball hang up there a long time," Browning said. "I knew I had to catch it."

Wake Forest could not respond.

Jason Anderson juggled a pass out of bounds. Barclay, who ran for 179 yards, was stopped at the line of scrimmage. And Cory Randolph's final two throws went incomplete.

"It shows what can happen if we don't close the game out," said Barclay, who's gained 342 yards against Clemson the past two years. "We have to make plays all game long and especially in the stretch. That's when they really count."

Many in the crowd of 79,500 rushed the center of the field as Memorial Stadium's new remote-control collapsible goalposts worked to perfection, coming down in seconds.

The excitement shows how seriously Clemson takes Wake Forest these days. Only once in 55 contests since 1948 had Wake won back-to-back games in the series. But after Barclay slipped through a pile at the line of scrimmage on the way to his touchdown, it looked like Wake was on its way.

At least until Whitehurst got the Tigers moving.

Whitehurst finished 20-for-41 for 288 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Currie caught nine passes for 152 yards while Stuckey, a converted quarterback, had eight receptions for 112 yards.

The Tigers came out like a team looking for revenge from last year's debacle, which nearly cost Clemson coach Tommy Bowden his job. But after a four-game winning streak to end the season - and a longterm contract for Bowden - the Tigers wanted to pay back the last team to beat them.

They opened with Currie's 31-yard TD catch and Justin Miller's 69-yard punt return for a score in the first quarter.

Clemson's plans took a hit when Wake Forest rallied and kept the Tigers off the scoreboard through an uncomfortably long stretch for the Death Valley fans.

Wake freshman Ben Mauk launched a high, floater over the middle that Anderson caught for an 85-yard touchdown. The Demon Deacons did things their preferred way the next time they got the ball, rushing seven times for 37 yards and ending with Cornelius Birgs 2-yard dash through the middle for a touchdown to close things to 19-17.

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