Before 2011, Virginia Tech had never lost to the same team twice in one season. But Clemson made some history last year, beating the Hokies, 23-3, in Blacksburg to begin ACC play and then scoring a 38-10 blowout victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game for the school’s first conference title in football in 20 years.
If those bitter defeats are a source of motivation this week with Virginia Tech set to visit No. 13 Clemson Saturday, Coach Frank Beamer wasn’t talking about it Monday. He shrugged those setbacks off as a talented football team that “played exceptionally well against us twice. … We don’t think in the past very much around here.”
But it’s abundantly clear the Hokies haven’t forgotten about Clemson’s dynamic offense.
“You don’t want to get down against these guys, because they can keep going,” Beamer said Monday during his weekly teleconference with reporters. “Across the board they have threats, and that’s what makes it tough.”
Led by offensive coordinator Chad Morris – at $1.3 million, he’s the highest-paid assistant coach in the country these days – Clemson’s high-octane spread attack is clicking on all cylinders, averaging more than 41 points and 82 plays per game this year. It isn’t much of a surprise given the plethora of weapons the Tigers have at their disposal again this season.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has picked up where he left off last year when he earned first team all-ACC honors, with 1,748 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions through six games. He also has 224 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
His favorite receiver is not who you’d think. Sophomore Sammy Watkins, the ACC’s rookie of the year in 2011, was suspended for the first two games of 2012 and has just 16 catches for 118 yards and no touchdowns. Instead, Boyd has turned to junior DeAndre Hopkins, who is currently the ACC’s leading receiver (49 catches, 777 yards, eight TDs) and has the second-most receiving yards in the entire country.
If that weren’t enough, Clemson also has running back Andre Ellington, who is averaging more yards per game (99.5) than any other player in the ACC this season.
“What they do, I think is good, but certainly they do it with great people,” Beamer said about Clemson’s scheme, which is an off-shoot of the spread offense used by current Arkansas State Coach and former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
***Wide receiver Marcus Davis, running back JC Coleman and defensive end James Gayle all picked up ACC player of the week recognition for their performances against Duke this past weekend.
Davis finished with five catches for 144 and two touchdowns. Coleman produced a breakout game on the ground, gaining 183 yards on just 13 carries. He had touchdown runs of 86 and 45 yards. Gayle had a team-high nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three quarterback hurries.
***Speaking of Coleman, Beamer would not declare him the featured running back going forward. “I think you’re always looking for a guy that’s hot in the ballgame,” he said.
He emphasized that redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, who started the first six games of the year, had not done anything wrong to get demoted. The Hokies were simply looking for a spark in the run game. Virginia Tech gained a season-high 269 yards on the ground Saturday.
“We had some great blocking and he did some great running,” Beamer said of Coleman. “It’s no secret to how you get it done.”
***Beamer said left guard Matt Arkema would get work this week as Virginia Tech’s backup center. The Hokies’ interior line is banged up this week. Center Andrew Miller is out for the year after he fractured his fibula and guards David Wang (ankle/knee) and Caleb Farris (ankle) did not play this past weekend against Duke.