Now that I've had a few days to take in the highs and lows of the weekend, I feel I'm ready to say my piece about the Clemson game. As MadJay pointed out, we can look back on this game and clearly see that one play defined the entire feel of the game. From that moment on, my entire gut kept saying the Hokies were done for.
The Logan Thomas fumble as it would be, was what it was. However, the thing I keyed on most was his reaction to the play on the sideline. He was frustrated and that frustration carried on to the field not only through Thomas, but others such as David Wilson and Jarrett Boykin and much of the offensive front.
Offensively, the Hokies had moments that made you think there was hope. The 45 yard pass to D.J. Coles to tie the game late in the first. The drive for the field goal late in the second was one of only two really good drives the Hokies could muster all game. The other came in the fourth quarter, but ended in a Jonathan Meeks interception at the 10-yard line. But one thing was clear, and Herbstreit was pointing it out all game, the Tigers defense was keying on the running game and not allowing anything on the ground. While he kept pointing out that the vertical routes would force Clemson to back off, Thomas and the receivers never could get into sync long enough to allow for any kind of adjustment. Wilson would finish the day with a measly 32 yards rushing and between he, Thomas, and Josh Oglesby they mustered a total of 56 yards.
The frustration of it all led to some key Hokie mistakes. The push off for offensive pass interference and the spiked ball unsportsmanlike by Boykin were the biggest of such that I can think of. Now, we can talk about some of the missed calls: the horse collar on Thomas, the tipped punt that would have negated the running into the kicker, the [offsetting, each team was guilty of one each] missed calls on helmet to helmet contact, but these were minor compared to the 87 yards of penalties the Hokies accumulated.
Defensively, the Tigers came in well prepared to exploit the weakness the Hokies had in the secondary. To pour salt on the wound, Jayron Hosley went out early with a stinger. I remember screaming at the television, "Tell me Hosley will be able to come back" as the Tahj Boyd ripped apart poor Detrick Bonner and to some equal success Cris Hill. Bonner and Hill, inexperienced as they are, were no match for the Clemson receivers and with Boyd hitting his mark for the first time in five games. It was lights out in the third quarter as the Tigers scored 21 unanswered and eventually 28 unanswered points.
While I, once again, agree with MadJay that the one fumble to open the game was the only key play, I would like to leave you with these two plays to ponder.
First, down 31-10 with roughly 1:30 to go in the third, the offense remained on the field for a fourth and 2 on the Clemson 30-yard line. Thomas's pass to Chris Drager falls incomplete. and the ball goes over on downs. Had the Hokies converted, and had they scored, the game would have been a two score game going into the fourth quarter. Instead, the Tigers took the turnover and in six plays scored another touchdown.
Second, on the ensuing drive, the Hokies were moving the ball well. They'd marched fifty yards to the Clemson 32-yard line. Thomas, under pressure, heave the ball into triple coverage. The ball was intercepted by Meeks and he returned it 41 yards.
All in all, this game left a worse feeling in my stomach than the previous loss did. But the news of late Sunday evening had me feeling so much better. How sweet it is to be going to New Orleans!
Go Hokies! Beat Blue!