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October 22, 2012

Final Grades: Clemson Loss

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A strong start went for naught as Virginia Tech's miscues again spelled trouble, this time resulting in a 38-17 loss at Clemson. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of the Hokies' loss:

Junior Logan Thomas couldn't get things going through the air, though a slightly overthrown ball in the third quarter might have been a 70-plus yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Dyrell Roberts. When you look at the overall stat sheet, you see Thomas still rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown. But he also made one of the costliest mistakes of the game when another overthrown pass was intercepted and returned 74 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Thomas had a good day, but that mistake was a killer.


Aside from Thomas' 111 rushing yards, it was an overall abysmal day for the Hokies' rushing game. The running back carousel continues as no one can step up. A week after rushing for 183 yards against Duke, freshman J.C. Coleman ran for just 19 yards. And this time, he got the bulk of the carries, 12 of them. Junior Tony Gregory and senior Martin Scales did a respectable job with their carries (five and four), but redshirt freshman Michael Holmes couldn't capitailize on his five carries. Notably, he was stopped on a crucial fourth down play in the first quarter on a drive that could have out the Hokies up 14-0.


It's a shame senior Corey Fuller doesn't have another year of eligibility because he's been the most dependable of the Hokies' hands. Senior Marcus Davis had six catches for 58 yards, but gave Virginia Tech the nail in its coffin with a lazy pass on a lateral from Thomas that was intercepted and set up Clemson's last touchdown on a short field. It's hard for the other numbers to overtake that one. And Fuller himself couldn't pull through the wide receivers.


We knew the line was banged up heading into the game. Junior David Wang played and looked better at guard and senior Michael Via filled in admirably at center. The line did ok up the middle giving Thomas a head start, but he fought for and did the rest to get what yards he gained on 21 carries. There was some dancing around by the running backs as there has been, but there no holes like Coleman had to run through against Duke. Clemson also got to Thomas for a pair of sacks.


The physical, tough defensive line everyone has been looking for is here. The Hokies harassed Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd with five sacks, four coming from the defensive line. Luther Maddy looks more and more like a beast and had two sacks. He was a constant disrupter all day. Defensive end James Gayle also had a sack, continuing his recent string of success. But even he was a little dejected after the game that another good defensive effort was squandered.


Senior Bruce Taylor and junior Jack Tyler continue to be most dependable, consistent players on the team. Taylor got a big sack and had seven tackles, while Tyler had nine and 2.5 for loss. Taylor's strong suit isn't pass defense, but he still played well. The linebackers as a unit also did a great job of limiting Clemson from making a big play on the ground, outside of a 26-yard rush by Clemson running back Andre Elington.


Virginia Tech still gave up a few big plays that we knew were coming, to Clemson wide receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, but in their defense, all four Clemson offensive scores came on short fields. Safety Michael Cole made one of the unlikeliest interceptions you'll ever see, but overall, the unit has to get more physical. It won't get any easier at Miami and Florida State in just over two weeks.


It was a rough start for punter A.J. Hughes, who mishandled the snap on his first punt of the day, in the second quarter, and with a rush coming, managed to get off a 26-yard punt. His punts are where they were the first half of the season and that was one area the Hokies could depend on. Junior kicker Cody Journell looked good on his lone field goal attempt, a 40-yarder just before halftime, but as far as returns, Virginia Tech posed no threat. The bright spot is on coverage teams, where senior Alonzo Tweedy continues to shine.


The great start on offense and defense looked great on the coaches. But there were some questionable decisions. Running off tackle with Holmes on fourth and short was one. But the one that looms largest is the wide receiver pass by Davis that was a lazy loft and was easily intercepted by Clemson.


Clemson is an unbelievable atmosphere. The traffic to the small town is tough to deal with, but the crowd was hyped and the entrance of former American soldier Daniel Rodriguez was a touching moment. Also a hell of a sign when after leaving the press box three hours after the game, there were still a large chunk of people tailgating. That's a football junkie fan base.



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