Virginia Tech no match for Clemson in 23-3 loss

Hokies’ scoring woes continue

Clemson defensive end Andre Branch (40) and tight end Brandon Ford (80) celebrate their 23-3 win over Virginia Tech during an NCAA college football game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)Clemson defensive end Andre Branch (40) and tight end Brandon Ford (80) celebrate their 23-3 win over Virginia Tech during an NCAA college football game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Last week, Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer acknowledged what everybody had been thinking since the spring about the Hokies‘ upcoming game against Clemson.

“There’s a lot of questions — how good is Virginia Tech? — that people want answered,” Beamer said, calling the game “a good measuring stick.”

On Saturday night, the 11th-ranked Hokies stepped into serious October football on a fittingly October evening at Lane Stadium — 43 degrees at kickoff, with swirling winds chilling the air to 36, and the gray sky spitting rain. It felt like the beginning of the real college football season, and for the Hokies, it essentially was.

After going undefeated in four ho-hum non-conference games, this would be the night they learned just how good they really are right now, and how ready they might be to defend their ACC championship.

At least for this night, in front of a buzzing home crowd and a national television audience, they didn’t measure up to conference championship standards. They lost 23-3 to the No. 13 Tigers (5-0, 2-0 ACC), who jumped to the forefront of the ACC by becoming the conference’s first team to win three straight games over ranked opponents.

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson (4) loses the ball as he is tackled by Clemson linebacker Quandon Christian, left, and safety Carlton Lewis, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Virginia Tech running back David Wilson (4) loses the ball as he ... more >

The convincing victory not only snapped Tech’s 11-game ACC winning streak, but marked the first time since 1995 that it failed to score a touchdown at home. Underscoring the Hokies‘ ongoing offensive issues, they reached the Clemson 2 and settled for a field goal in the first half, then got to the 12 in the second half and turned the ball over on downs.

“We’re beating ourselves right now,” said senior receiver Danny Coale.

Tech’s defense did its part by holding Clemson to 231 yards before the Tigers began an 88-yard touchdown drive with 9:48 left in the game. That put them up 23-3.

But it was a composed play by their first-year starting quarterback, Tajh Boyd, that helped them pull away. With 10:42 left in the third quarter, Boyd stepped back to evade blitzing end J.R. Collins, then lobbed a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen that put Clemson ahead 17-3.

The game was one of Tech’s most anticipated in recent years — and its eighth home game ever between two top-15 teams. Four of those previous seven games were at night — which adds to the buzz — and the Hokies had lost the past two, to No. 2 Boston College in 2007 and to No. 5 Miami in 2005.

They lost again Saturday night because, just like in their previous three games this season, they couldn’t put the ball in the end zone often enough. The Hokies had drives end at the Clemson 41, 48, 32, 7 (after getting to the 2), 45, 42 and 12. The results of those drives: interception, lost fumble, punt, field goal, punt, punt and turnover on downs.

Settling for a field goal after having second and goal at the 2 was the most glaring of the missed opportunities. Tech coach Frank Beamer said a false start penalty on third and goal at the 2 was due in part to Tech’s band playing during the snap count.

The Hokies gained 258 yards against a Clemson defense that was allowing an average of 405.5. Tech free safety Eddie Whitley said several offensive players approached him in the locker room and said, “I’m sorry.”

There are still seven games left, all in the ACC, for the Hokies‘ offense to redeem itself, and for the team to prove it is worthy of playing for the conference title — perhaps against Clemson.

“We hope to see them again,” said Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who threw for just 125 yards. “At least I do.”

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