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Clemson may have shot itself in foot

The team that dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference for so long is all of a sudden at the bottom looking up. Maybe that Ken Hatfield guy wasn't so bad after all.

You remember Hatfield, the former Clemson coach who was run out of town last season despite an 8-3 record. In four years, Hatfield was 32-13-1. He led the Tigers to three bowl appearances and an ACC title.

But he never was accepted by the Clemson people. He didn't live in the small town of Clemson, which bothered them. He didn't hang out with the locals, which bothered them. He wasn't Danny Ford, which really bothered them.

So the Tigers brought in Tommy West, a former Ford disciple who broke his contract at Tennessee-Chattanooga after only one season. Now West is suffering through a 2-4 start as the Tigers are at or near the bottom of several ACC statistical categories with a game at Florida State looming.

West says he wasn't left much to work with by the former coaching staff.

But Hatfield, who now coaches at Rice and had a big upset victory over Texas on Saturday, says don't blame him.

"I totally disagree with the cupboard being bare," Hatfield said. "Those kids can play. They won some football games last year and won a bowl game.

"I would feel upset if I were those players' mothers and daddies and high school coaches and I heard that. Those high school coaches know there are good players there.

"They started out the program this year and they thought they would return to their good old days and good old ways. I wish them well."

Coaching moves?: Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice said this week that "there is a problem with our football program" after the Yellow Jackets lost to Virginia 24-7 and dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-4 in the ACC.

But that doesn't mean coach Bill Lewis is on his way out.

"Bill, like any head coach, they're always, continually being evaluated," Rice said.

The Yellow Jackets are headed for their third straight losing season only four seasons after winning a share of the national championship under coach Bobby Ross, who is now with the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

Bowl talk: For a program such as Duke, which hasn't been to a bowl since coach Steve Spurrier's last game in 1989, post-season talk is rare. And that's what makes it so much better for the Blue Devils, who can go to 7-0 with a victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.

"A team that wins seven early with the stature of a Duke University, I just don't see how some of them (bowls) could keep us out," said first-year coach Fred Goldsmith, who sees the schedule get considerably harder after this week.

The 20th-ranked Blue Devils play at No. 10 Florida State on Oct. 29 before games against No. 25 Virginia, at N.C. State and No. 15 North Carolina. Virginia and North Carolina have just one loss apiece, both to FSU.

Nonetheless, it has been an incredible run for the Blue Devils, who blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone with less than four minutes remaining Saturday to defeat Clemson 19-13.

"That was the first time we've been behind in 1994," Goldsmith said. "We talk about facing adversity. How you face adversity may be more important than if you win or lose."

Although the victory came against a Clemson program that is not the same as the one that dominated the ACC in the 1980s, the victory was a big one.

"I think that does validate us," said Ray Farmer, who blocked Nelson Welch's punt with 3:37 left and fell on it for the winning touchdown. "People have been saying all along that you guys haven't played anybody and you haven't done anything spectacular. I think this proves right here that our defense can play."

Tough climb: Virginia lost its opener to FSU and has had a difficult time making it back into the rankings. The Cavaliers now are 25th in the AP poll after five straight victories.

Now they have a chance to really prove they deserve it. The Cavaliers play No. 15 North Carolina on Saturday. Both teams are 5-1 with the outcome going a long way toward major-bowl status.

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