In the aftermath of eighth-ranked Virginia Tech's 31-11 victory over Clemson Thursday night, there are two assessments about the Hokies (3-0) that seem beyond dispute: Their defense is for real. So is undersized all-American defensive end Corey Moore.
Moore, at 6 feet, 212 pounds, may be viewed by NFL teams as too small to play defensive line (or maybe even linebacker) and too inexperienced as a pass defender to play safety. But for the next three months, Moore won't be playing in the NFL. And in the college ranks, he can be dominating.
In three games, Moore has six sacks (he led the Big East last season with 13) and seven more tackles for losses. He has forced and recovered a fumble for a touchdown, and has been credited with a safety. However, even those statistics don't begin to define his efforts. Moore has been so quick to get around opposing left tackles this season that he has spent nearly as much time in the backfield as the quarterback he has been chasing.
"I don't know about you guys, but I've never seen a 6-foot guy take over a game they way he does," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said Thursday night. "He is amazing. Just amazing."
Ten days earlier, following the Hokies' 31-10 victory over Alabama-Birmingham, Beamer had similar praise for the senior: "I don't know if people realize just what they're seeing out there," he said. "If they realize just how good he really is."
Thursday night, after all but guaranteeing that he will not allow Virginia Tech to lose any game in which the offense builds a lead, Moore backed up his words.
Clemson quarterback Brandon Streeter had been successful with short, quick patterns that allowed him to release the ball before he was pummeled by a Virginia Tech defender--something that happened repeatedly. (He ended up completing 27 of 43 passes for 195 of the team's 221 yards.) But when the Tigers most needed to move the ball, they were overwhelmed by Moore and the Hokies.
Trailing 14-3, Clemson scored a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt, then added a two-point conversion. Virginia Tech's Shayne Graham kicked a 47-yard field goal on the Hokies' next possession, but five minutes remained in the game--plenty of time for the Tigers to score a go-ahead touchdown.
Four plays later, with Moore all over him in the backfield, Streeter rushed a throw directly into the arms of Virginia Tech junior Ike Charlton, who returned the interception 34 yards for a 24-11 cushion. And that wasn't the end of Moore vs. Streeter. On the Tigers' next possession, Moore not only recorded his second sack of the game, he stripped Streeter of the ball and returned it 32 yards for his first collegiate touchdown.
When the game was over, Virginia Tech's defense had emerged with national-caliber statistics largely intact. It is allowing 164.7 yards (51.3 rushing) and seven points per game.
"We're not going to back down to anybody," Moore said. "And if the offense does its job and puts points on the board, then we don't think anyone should beat us. We're not in the habit of letting people score."
Hokies Notes: Virginia Tech emerged from Thursday's game with just one major injury: backup center Tim Schnecker, a senior, broke his right ankle and underwent surgery this morning. He will be out at least six weeks.
CAPTION: Defensive end Corey Moore celebrates 32-yard fumble return for score during Hokies' win Thursday.