Monday, October 30, 2006

Tigers Lose Roar in Lane Stadium

by Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi

BLACKSBURG, VA -- Two drives into the game last Thursday, and I knew it was over. The Hokies were about to defeat the #10 ranked Clemson Tigers. Now, dear kind sir or madam, you may ask, "But EhhTee, how could you tell that the Hokies were going to win, if both teams went three and out on their opening drives?" [Mad Jay's note - during the first quarter when Mr. Trivedi pronounced this, I actually said in response "You are crazy". While I was technically right, EhhTee had the last (maniacal) laugh]

Maybe it was the crisp autumn night air, maybe it was the 3 Sparks brand products I had consumed prior to the game, or maybe it was the electric atmosphere that is Lane Stadium on a Thursday night, but something about that moment told me the Hokies would pull off the upset. In truth, and in hindsight, the two drives were both stopped for nothing, but it was what I saw in the mannerisms. It was what I saw, when Clemson called its first time-out. It was what I saw when Clemson called all its time-outs in the first 8:05 of the half. It was what I saw as the Hokies stuffed one of the best running tandems in the country. James Davis and C.J. Spiller averaged 185 yards a game going into Thursday night's game. They would be held to 71 on that night.

So now you're thinking, surely I might have changed my mind on the next Clemson possession when they marched 77 yards for a touchdown. No, my friends, I did not. There were again the intangibles. The crowd was in the game. The tackles were crisp. The yardage, on Clemson's behalf, was earned. Quarterback Will Proctor made some good passes for 14, 19, and 12. But these came after Proctor had to burn Clemson's last 2 time-outs.

The rest of the game belonged to the Hokies.

The Hokies took the field and I saw something else, forward movement. Branden Ore was able to push, or rather, more importantly, the offensive line was able to push on short yardage. A key third and inches pickup was actually more important than it appeared at the time. As was the next set's fourth down pickup. Glennon would pass twice on this drive, each for minimal pickup. Ore, Jesse Allen, and he would combine for the rest of the yards on the ground. The Hokies rushed for 74 on their 84-yard march into the end zone. Ore's 39-yard run was the highlight which was a touchdown, but he was ruled out of bounds. Again, I was not concerned. I knew that the Hokies would convert regardless. Two plays later, Glennon on a keeper would tie the score.

Clemson would struggle on the next drive. Brendon Hill should have had an interception but instead Clemson went three and out. The Hokies would take advantage of good position on the Clemson 49 and again would put some points on the board. Brandon Pace would kick a 37-yard field goal. The reoccurring theme, Ore was able to move the ball with relative ease.

After yet another three and out, the Hokies drove for a little while but that drive would stall. A key pass by Glennon to David "I've got a fever" Clowney for 19-yards. If not for losing his footing, he would have taken it to the end zone. Two holding calls would push the drive back, but punter, Nic "Big as a five bedroom, four bath mansion" Schmitt would pin the Tigers down on their two yard line.

Clemson got the ball back with 6:30 on the clock. I want you to envision the amount of time left in the game. There are 36 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game. Now I want you to absorb this stat: On this drive, the Tigers would convert for a first down after being pinned in. This would be one of three conversions for the rest of the game. The second would come late in the third quarter. The third would come with time running down at the end of the game.

One more time: with 36+ minutes left in the game, the Tigers had their last first down until nearly the end of the third quarter. In total they would have eight, five of which came on their second drive on which they scored the touchdown. That said, Clemson quickly collapsed and had to punt once again. All told, Clemson would have ten three and outs.

Glennon would make one mistake in this game and it came on the next drive. Glennon has consistently had trouble with blindside pressure. He has fumbled four times this year when hit from behind. It is vital that he work on protecting the ball in these situations. A sack is far better than a fumble, my friends. Thankfully, Will Proctor would mirror the turnover with a fumble of his own.

The defensive battle would continue into the next half. Tech goes three and out. Xavier Adibi would intercept a pass deep in Clemson territory. The next five plays were all hand offs to Ore. The last one would be for an 11-yard touchdown run. 17-7 Hokies lead.

The Hokies with the ball in their own territory would be saved by what I think was a controversial fumble call reversal. The play in question was a botched reversal by the Hokies. Eddie Royal fumbled the ball on the Hokies 34-yard line. The play was reviewed and turned over. The play was very close and on further review, I personally think there wasn't enough to overturn the call. But, I'm not a referee and the Hokies would maintain possession and would punt. Guess what, the Tigers again went three and out. The Hokie defense was phenomenal. The Hokies allowed 12 yards in the last 12 plays!

The Hokies would drive again on their next possession, this time with a more balanced attack. This is to say, Glennon made two passes: one to Josh Morgan for 9 yards and one to Sam Wheeler for a huge 40-yard strike. Ore would add 31-yards and another touchdown to his total on this drive as well. Ore would finish the day with 203-yards with two touchdowns. This was the second straight game he was able to break the 200-yard mark.

The next drive the Tigers would convert their seventh first down. But that would be all they could muster and would have to punt once more.

The forth quarter was a ping pong match of dueling three and outs. Two things were pretty evident here. One, all of the back and forth was only eating into the clock. Two, the Tigers looked amazingly like the Hokies did against Georgia Tech. There was a aura of dejection and of shock on the Clemson side of the ball. With only a 17 point deficit, the Tigers seemed to fold it in and were half way back to South Carolina in the fourth quarter. It seemed that the emotional high the Tigers felt after defeating the Yellow Jackets five days earlier was gone faster than the caffeine high that was fading from those three Sparks I had earlier.

A Superfan asked on Thursday, what was Beamer's record against the Tigers. Frank Beamer's first game as head coach of the Hokies in 1987 was a loss to Clemson. He lost again in 1988 and 1989. Since then, Beamer and the Hokies have had the Tigers' number. With wins in Death Valley in 1998, the 'Burg in 1999 and in the Gator Bowl in 2001, Beamer moved to 4-3 versus the Tigers as the Hokies' head coach. Overall the Tigers hold the lead 17-11-1.

The Hokies moved to 13-2 when playing on ESPN's Thursday night coverage with the 24-7 victory over the Tigers. The two losses both were against the Boston College Golden Eagles. Something tells me, that Athletic Director Jim Weaver will think twice before scheduling that one again!

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