1) Why did the offense struggle so much against Clemson’s defense when other
teams did not? Why do the Tech receivers have so much trouble with press
I watched a few of Clemson’s games and there is no doubt that their defense
played their best football in the two games against VT. Match-ups are always
part of the equation, but Clemson’s defenders played at a totally different
level against the Hokies. Certainly one reason is that Tech is a target now for
every other ACC team — Clemson included. They have very good players on both
sides of the ball — big, fast and athletic. In the other games I watched (Wake,
NC State, South Carolina), the Clemson defense seemed disinterested and
uninspired at times, even though a lot was on the line in two of those games
(Wake and USC). Their primary weakness was the secondary — an area the Hokies
were unable to exploit in eight quarters of football.
Having played Clemson once, the Tech offense came out last week with a game
plan to spread out the Clemson defense and force them to defend the full width
of the field. The objective was to use spread formations and perimeter edge
plays to widen the tackle box, spread out the LB’s and safeties and get the
middle of the field less congested. That is one way to attack a defense that is
crowding the box, aggressively playing downhill and using a lot of press man
coverage on the outside.
That last sentence should sound familiar to Tech fans — load the box,
aggressively attack, blitz every other play and play a lot of man / man-free
coverage — it is the defensive mindset and base plan that Frank Beamer and Bud
Foster used to dominate for so many years while building the Tech program.
Eventually a few teams figured out that one way to attack that approach was to
spread the field, widen the tackle box and isolate match-ups in the slot. The
“west coast” style offenses (Pitt, Cal, etc) were effective at slowing
down the aggressive, blitz-happy Hokies and widening out the fronts. As a
result, Bud Foster tweaked the scheme after the 2003 season to use more
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