Blue Raiders set to invade Death Valley

September 11, 2003 · By Nate Rau / Special to GoBlueRaiders.com

Clemson, S.C. - Clemson's Death Valley didn't earn its nickname by being a visitor-friendly venue. But, when Middle Tennessee heads to Clemson for the second of three daunting road games against major conference teams, the Blue Raiders can take heart. Two weeks ago, Georgia invaded Death Valley and came out with a 30-0 victory. Then, the Blue Raiders played the Bulldogs in Athens and played the No. 8 team toe-to-toe in the first half, falling by a score of 29-10.

Does this mean Middle Tennessee (0-2) has more than a fighting chance against the Tigers?

"Last week, when we were getting ready for Georgia we were watching Clemson and your focus is on Georgia; now it turns to Clemson," head coach Andy McCollum said. " People say, 'well, Georgia beat (Clemson) this bad, but you played Georgia like this.'

" It's still three hours of going out there and executing. That's what we have to do, and we have to take it to another tough environment in Death Valley. We know we're heavy underdogs again and we've got to go and improve on what we didn't get done this week."

The immediate challenge will be dealing with Clemson's vaunted team speed, which is especially evident when the Tigers (1-1) are on defense.

"We recruit against Clemson on a lot of guys, so we know what type of players they have," McCollum said. "Anytime you play an SEC or an ACC team, they're going to have a lot of speed on defense."

Wide receiver Kerry Wright added that familiarity might help the Blue Raiders on Saturday in that both Clemson and Georgia look similar on film.

"They have a lot of team speed and their [defensive backs] fly to the ball," Wright said of Clemson's defense. "[The Georgia and Clemson] secondaries are similar; they play the same coverages. We just have to accept the challenge and get better at practice this week."

Defensively, the key will be stopping Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurt, who McCollum recruited out of high school.

"They have a good team with an offensive line who will block and protect," defensive end Demetrios Walker said. "They also have a smart quarterback who will produce. We just have to play assignment and alignment football and be as good as we can be this week."

Four Blue Raider players will be returning to their home state to face the Tigers. Jeff Littljohn (Gaffney), Sam Williams (Greenwood), Josh Harris (Union) and Justin Rainey (Rockhill) will all be returning to the Palmetto state where all expect to have a number of family and friends in attendance.

Middle Tennessee will play Clemson in Death Valley at 4 p.m. CST Saturday.

Nate Rau is a junior at Middle Tennessee. Reach him at naterau9797@yahoo.com.

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