Game Preview – vs. Clemson
This Saturday, the Clemson Tigers host the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Hokie’s second ACC meeting of the season. The Hokies come off a 17-10 win over North Carolina while Clemson comes off a devastating 13-3 loss to Georgia Tech, which the pundits expected Clemson to win. Clemson looks to rebound off of that loss after a poor performance of allowing six sacks, four missed field goals, and a lackluster 62 yards in rushing between their two top running backs. Clemson’s past two seasons have begun with high expectations, good performance early in the season, and degrading performance late in the season at the hands of upset losses. (Does this sound familiar?) The Tigers have in the forefront of their minds not repeating this given that the Hokies have contributed to that in the past and defeated them in the last four contests. Virginia Tech’s win over UNC ended with the game going down to the wire, something most expected Tech to have in the bag safely be the end of the fourth quarter.
Let’s examine the Hokie offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has demonstrated steady improvement, but still makes many rookie mistakes. Frank Beamer says that he asks of Taylor, "Are you looking where you need to be looking? Should the ball be getting out of there or should you be scrambling?” Taylor is undefeated as a starter to date, but faces his toughest opponent as a starter in Clemson. His performance against UNC ended with roughly 50% pass completion, 66 yards in passing, one interception, and eleven yards of rushing. Taylor faces a stronger defensive squad in Clemson than he did in UNC, and significantly so in Clemson’s 17.4 points allowed per game versus UNC’s 24.8. Clemson’s defense has also produced seven interceptions on the season so far.
Furthermore, while Branden Ore improved some in the game against the Tarheels, he continues to have a mediocre season. He’s far from the pace of his 1137 yards of rushing and 17 touchdowns from last season. The Hokie offense needs to create the third dimension in a dependable tight end passing play. So far, neither Greg Boone nor Sam Wheeler has developed into a player that delivers on this; however, they are just Sophomores, and still have experience to gain. But the offense MUST incorporate this aspect of the game more so than it has. Sam Wheeler has demonstrated the ability to run the routes and get open, but he still needs to work on finishing the play with clutch receptions that produce the third down gains that keep a struggling offensive drive going. I think Wheeler has the potential to develop into a dependable tight end in this manner, but Brian Stienspring needs to ensure that the Hokies develop it. With a weak offensive line, an underperforming number one running back, and inexperience, Taylor needs the option of a reliable tight end for pass reception.
Moving on to Clemson’s offense, I’m very optimistic here. If there’s anything that their performance last week against Georgia Tech showed, it is that a pressuring defense force them into mistakes. Bud Foster’s defensive squad has every bit of potential to do this. If the Yellow Jackets’ defense could make it happen, you better believe that a defense with two of the top linebackers in the counter in Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall could disorient the Clemson offense too. Clemson does however have a good arsenal of offensive weapons. Quarterback Cullen Harper has thrown for a 63% completion rate so far this season. Running back James Davis has amassed 454 yards of rushing, and the secondary running back, CJ Spiller, has run for 201 yards, not too far behind Branden Ore!
Overall, if Clemson can keep their composure and not let a sack or turnover throw them off of their game, they could just very well come away with the win. But it won’t in all likelihood be an easy win for either side. I expect that the clear victor won't emerge until midway through the fourth quarter.
#14/#15 (AP) Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1, 1-0 ACC) at
#22/#22 (AP) Clemson Tigers (4-2-1 ACC)
Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007 • 6:00 PM
Clemson Memorial (81,473)