Turnovers and Short Fields Doom Hokies at Clemson

Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, on October 20, 2012
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Virginia Tech fell to #14 Clemson 38-17 despite outgaining the Tigers by over 100 yards and playing a very good game defensively.  The Hokies are now 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the ACC, while Clemson is 6-1 and 3-1.

It was a gorgeous day in Clemson, SC.

The Hokies outgained Clemson 406 to 295, yet still lost the game by 21 points.  After forcing Clemson to punt on their first possession, the Hokies went right down the field and scored to take the lead.  Michael Cole made an amazing interception while lying flat on his back on Clemson’s next drive, and the Tech offense drove down the field to try and take a double digit lead.

On fourth and 1 at the Clemson 18, Frank Beamer elected to go for it rather than taking the short field goal to go up 10-0.  The Hokies ran it with Michael Holmes to the left, right behind David Wang and Eric Martin, who have not been effective in the running game this season.  Martin was stood up at the line of scrimmage, while Wang pulled, fell down, and didn’t touch anybody.

The Hokies also went on to throw three interceptions – two by Logan Thomas and one by wide receiver Marcus Davis – and one of them was returned for a touchdown.  A punt also hit Christian Reeves in the foot, and Clemson recovered, giving the Tigers a short field and resulting in a touchdown.

It was a 17-10 game at halftime, and although the Tech defense continued to play very well, short fields did them in.  Let’s take a quick look at Clemson’s scoring drives…

13 plays, 73 yards, field goal
6 plays, 26 yards, TD (after a punt bounced off Christian Reeves)
INT return for a TD
7 plays, 52 yards, TD (after Watkins fumbled, but the officials didn’t overturn the call)
3 plays, 47 yards, TD
9 plays, 41 yards, TD (after a Marcus Davis interception)

Clemson’s only touchdown drive of greater than 50 yards was actually the result of a major mistake by the replay official.  Antone Exum knocked the ball out of the hands of Sammy Watkins – clearly before he hit the ground – yet the play was not overturned, and Clemson kept the ball, giving the Tigers a first down.  In short, the Tech defense did almost all they could do in this game.

That tough call came immediately following an equally bad call on the previous Tech drive.  On third and 8 from the VT 29, defensive tackle Josh Watson got pressure and got a hand around the leg of Logan Thomas.  Thomas stayed on his feet and threw  pass for a first down to a wide open J.C. Coleman, who had the sideline in front of him.  It would have gone for a huge play, but the head official blew the play dead before Thomas threw the ball, and the Hokies had to punt.

Tajh Boyd was ruled down on this play, even after an official review.

The officials blew another call late in the game, when Tajh Boyd clearly fumbled at the VT 1.  The ball rolled into the endzone and was recovered by Clemson for a touchdown, but the officials ruled that Boyd was down at the 1, and apparently there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it.  Though the call didn’t matter, it was a great example of the poor officiating that hit the Hokies hard in the second half.  See the picture at right…Boyd clearly fumbled before he was down.

In three meetings with Clemson over the past two years, the Tech defense has played great football in two of them.  In Lane Stadium last year, the Hokies held the high powered Tigers to just 323 yards of offense, and Tajh Boyd was only 13-of-32.  Today it was a 295 yard performance by Clemson, easily their worst output of the season.  Boyd was 12-of-21 for 160 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.  He was also sacked five times.

The common theme in all three games was the Tech offense failing to play well against a Clemson defense that was much maligned.  The Tigers finished 71st in total defense a year ago, giving up nearly 400 yards per game.  The Hokies managed just one touchdown in 8 quarters of football.  Through 6 games this season, Clemson’s defense ranked 97th in total defense, allowing 445 yards per game.  Though the Hokies put up 406 yards, their running game was inconsistent and their performance was marred by turnovers.

Virginia Tech returns to action on Thursday, November 1 when they take on Miami at 7:30pm on ESPN.

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