Don't think that this wasn't still the TerrorDome after last night's game. In the first half, Clemson did what all of it's opponents usually do in that environment - they struggled. And that is always when the Hokies build a lead, get the crowd even more fired up and then during the 2nd half, when the opponent is one-dimensional, the Hokies typically feed off of that and put the game away. That's why all of the Key Plays from the game, happened in the first 25 minutes of the game, because they set the tone the rest of the way.
1) 3rd and 4 from the Clemson 41 and on the Hokies first offensive series they were looking GOOD. The Hokie defense had stopped Clemson on a three and out, and then had to overcome an insane roughing the kicker penalty to stop them AGAIN. Impressive. Meanwhile, the Hokie offense was getting chunks of yardage, on David Wilson runs and catches. And on 3rd down, Mike O'Cain dialed up the perfect play and Logan Thomas made a not-so-great but definitely catchable pass on a slant route to Jarrett Boykin. Boykin however, tipped the ball up into the air for an interception and it killed the drive. If the Hokies had gotten in to score on this drive, I promise you, they win this game. The environment was that electric.
2) At the 5:55 mark of the first quarter, still scoreless with the Hokie defense playing lights out, David Wilson bursts through the line at the Clemson 48 yard line on 1st and 10 - and fumbles. Great hit by the Clemson player but Wilson has GOT to keep that ball covered up. Again, with the way the offense was moving the ball early, if the Hokies hadn't turned it over, they were moving the ball at will, and the defense was still crushing the Tigers at that point. Instead, Clemson gets the ball in great field position and scores a FG.
3) The critical error of the night. Following a Jayron Hosley interception, the Hokies again easily moved the ball down to the Clemson 2 yd line midway through the second quarter. On 3rd and goal, Clemson called a timeout and the Hokies had time to determine exactly what play they wanted. AT HOME, the Hokies were flagged for a false start as C Andrew Miller didn't snap the ball when he was supposed to and the rest of the team went. The 5 yd penalty moved them back and the Hokies settled for a tying FG. After the phantom personal foul on the following kickoff, the Tigers took over at the Hokie 48 yd-line and were able to recapture the momentum, but scoring a TD and going ahead 7-3, I promise you would have changed the outcome of the game.
So there you have it. Three critical errors, usually reserved for the visiting side in the first half of a night game at Lane Stadium. Make no mistake, the game was lost at that point and I knew it. You could tell from Coach Beamer's frustration level, that he knew it, too. He knows the formula: get ahead early, put all the pressure on the opponent, keep the crowd in it and win the game. Had the Hokies not committed these three mistakes (only one of which was created by the Tigers) it's very reasonable to imagine that the Hokies go in at halftime in the WORST CASE, ahead 13-10, and more likely, 17-3. As I said in the preview, I hoped the moment wasn't too big for these players, but it was. They had the ability to beat this very good Tiger team, they just didn't go out and do it. And I'm absolutely disgusted.