Football was a sideshow Sunday at the Tokyo Dome.
In the middle of the circular stadium, a team in orange played a team in blue in a strange game the Japanese are trying to understand. Surrounding the field were bands, cheerleaders and dancers.The bands rarely stopped playing. Occasionally, a touchdown would interrupt them.
"I felt like we were playing football in the middle of a big carnival," Clemson nose guard Rob Bodine said.The game, played late Saturday night Eastern time, was almost a ride through the haunted house for the Tigers, who needed a 26-point fourth quarter to defeat Duke 33-21 before 50,000 fans at the Coca-Cola Bowl.The 13th-ranked Tigers (9-1-1, 6-0-1 in the ACC), favored by 21, led 27-21 with 2:30 left and the Blue Devils with a first down at the Tiger 35. But Duke (4-6-1, 1-6) turned the ball over on downs.
Clemson fullback Rudy Harris then turned a plunge up the middle into a 59- yard touchdown run, giving the Japanese fans a final chance to dance in the aisles and shout, "Touchdown, touchdown."
The score also gave Clemson coach Ken Hatfield his first chance to relax. "We were fortunate to win," he said.Duke quarterback Dave Brown completed 23 of 48 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns, while Clemson's starting quarterback, DeChane Cameron, left the game in the third quarter with a bruised lower back and a sprained left ankle.
Two fumbles doomed Duke's upset hopes:
With the Blue Devils up 7-0 and trying to run out the clock with 38 seconds left in the first half, Chris Brown fumbled at his 13, and Clemson's Chester McGlockton recovered. On the next play, Cameron hit Terry Smith with a 13-yard TD pass.
With Clemson leading 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, Dave Brown was hit hard by Tyrone Mouzon and fumbled the ball 26 yards behind the line of scrimmage, where Levon Kirkland recovered at the Duke 34. On the next play, backup quarterback Richard Moncrief hit Smith with a 34-yard TD pass."When I came into the game, they (the Blue Devils) didn't think that I could pass, so I thought I'd surprise them," Moncrief said.
When the Tigers had the ball at the Duke 34 two minutes earlier, Moncrief ran in for a touchdown to break a 14-14 tie.
Moncrief relieved Cameron for much of the first half. Cameron tried to return, but Moncrief took over for good midway through the third quarter.
"DeChane had a hard time moving on that ankle, and we had a quarterback on the sideline who was perfectly capable," Hatfield said. "The only thing is Richard hadn't played in a real close ball game before."Moncrief completed 3 of 6 passes for 51 yards and ran for 46 yards. Shortly after he entered the game for good, he led the Tigers on a 66-yard march capped by Harris' 3-yard TD run that tied the score at 14.Harris rushed for a career-high 126 yards. Even better was tailback Rodney Blunt, who gained a career-high 163 yards.
"Richard and I are roommates, so it was nice that we both had big games," Blunt said. "It'll give us something to talk about for a long time."
Clemson's defensive backs won't want to talk about Dave Brown, although they may seem him in their nightmares.
Brown exploited Clemson's weak secondary for a 55-yard bomb to Brad Breedlove in the second quarter and a 72-yard pass to Breedlove in the third quarter that put the Blue Devils up 14-7.
Brown's third TD was a 12-yard toss to Chris Brown with 4:39 left in the game. Two minutes later, the Blue Devils got the ball back on a fumbled pitchout from Moncrief to Blunt. But Brown's rifle arm ran out of ammunition.
"It would have been nice to win, but Clemson just had more talent at the end," Dave Brown said. "But playing here in Japan is an experience I'll never forget.
"They're very gracious people, but I don't know how much they know about football. They were cheering at all the wrong times."
What Brown may not have noticed is that the Japanese were cheering a good band formation on the sideline or a well-executed cartwheel.