|Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)|
Thomas, Hokies offense bog down in 23-3 loss
BLACKSBURG, Va.—Logan Thomas was eager to show his skills on a big stage.
Instead, No. 13 Clemson never let him get comfortable. Thomas and Virginia Tech committed two turnovers and made countless drive-stalling mistakes as the 11th-ranked Hokies lost 23-3 to the Tigers on Saturday night.
"They kept me on my toes, didn't give me a chance to get a good feel for the game," Thomas said after completing 15 of 27 passes for 125 yards with an interception.
The frustration of the Hokies' troubles all converged on two drives. In the second quarter, an 18-yard run by David Wilson gave them a first-and-goal from the 5, but two runs netted only 3 yards and a false start flag pushed them back to the 7. When Thomas was flushed from the pocket and threw incomplete to Jarrett Boykin, Cody Journell tied at with a 24-yard field goal.
"We were at the 2-yard line," Thomas said with a blank look. "That should be automatic. The guys we have up front, the guys we have in the backfield, those two yards should be nothing."
Later, trailing 17-3 in the fourth quarter, they drove from the Tigers' 47 to the 12 on four completions by Thomas, but still faced fourth-and-4. Thomas' pass, however, missed Danny Coale, and the Tigers then drove 88 yards in eight plays to clinch it with their third touchdown.
The Hokies went without a touchdown at home for the first time since 1995 against Cincinnati, leaving quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O'Cain lamenting the costly mistakes.
"We just have a setback every now and then and we were not able to overcome that," he said, speaking of penalties. "... I never felt we would come out here and score three points."
Coach Frank Beamer bristled at the suggestion that a schedule that featured four non-BCS level programs leading up to the big game was to blame when the competition got better.
"I think it showed us that we didn't take advantage of some opportunities early, we let them slip away, they hit a couple long plays on us, got the momentum, got us behind on the score, got us in third-and-long too much," Beamer said. "I think that's what it showed us."
And resoundingly so as Clemson (5-0, 2-0) became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to beat ranked teams three weeks in a row, and ended the Hokies' 12-game ACC winning streak.
Boyd, a Virginia native recruited by the Hokies, threw for a touchdown and the Tigers got rushing touchdowns from Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. They finished with 323 yards against a defense that came in ranked fourth nationally, allowing just 231 yards per game.
The Hokies (4-1) had a miserable night offensively, gaining 258 yards.
The Tigers led 10-3 at halftime and doubled the edge quickly after halftime.
Following an 11-yard punt by Scott Demler, who dropped the ball while rolling toward a rugby style kick and them seemed to kick the end of the ball, Boyd hit Jaron Brown for 27 yards. Andre Ellington ran for 7 and Boyd found Dwayne Allen on the next play for a 32-yard touchdown.
Allen got inside rover Eddie Whitley on the play and made it look easy.
Boyd finished 13 for 32 for 204 yards, the touchdown and one interception.
The rest of the half featured drive after drive that started, then stopped for the Hokies, and when they came up short on a fourth-and-4 from the Tigers 12, Clemson put the game away.
The Tigers' 88-yard drive featured Boyd passes of 20 yards to Allen and 13 to Jaron Brown on a third-and-5 from the Tigers' 42, and Bellamy's 31-yard burst for the touchdown.
That sent Hokies fans who filled the stadium and sat through 40 degree temperatures with a stiff breeze and drizzle falling during parts of the game streaming glumly for the exits.
But nothing the Hokies did all night suggested the outcome would be different.
A fumble by Wilson set up Clemson's first score. Wilson was hit by Carlton Lewis while breaking through the line, and the ball popped into the air, right to Jonathan Meeks.
Boyd hit Brown between two defenders for 16 yards on third-and-4, but three straight incompletions from the Virginia Tech 14 forced a 31-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.
The Hokies tied it in the second quarter when Jayron Hosley jumped in front of Boyd's pass and returned it 14 yards to the Tigers' 31. It was Hosley's 12th career interception, and just the second thrown by Boyd this season, and led to Journell's field goal that tied it.
It also left Boyd with plenty of time, and linebacker Wiley Brown helped out with a 15-yard personal foul on the kickoff. Starting at the Virginia Tech 48, Boyd did some dazzling work passing and running to drive the Tigers them to the go-ahead touchdown before the half was over.
On third-and-10 from the 48, he hit Ellington for 11 yards. On third-and-8 from the 35, he found Sammy Watkins open deep downfield for 23 yards, and then ran 9 yards on the next play.
Ellington's 1-yard run gave the Tigers a 10-3 lead.