- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va. — When Clemson’s football team takes the field tonight, Virginia Tech’s players and coaches hope their usually stellar defensive unit — not the disjointed group that struggled in Boston two weeks ago — shows up as well.

The Tigers lead the ACC in total offense and rushing yards while boasting the ACC’s top running back in sophomore James Davis. Davis and freshman running back C.J. Spiller each average a little less than 7 yards a carry.

“They’re going to make some plays; the thing we’ve got to do is we can’t give up big plays,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “We’ve played talented people before, and I think we’ve got a good group when … we’re focused and we do the things that we’re taught to do.”

The Hokies (5-2, 2-2) stopped a two-game slide Saturday with a 36-6 win over Southern Mississippi. Foster’s unit played without the penalties and off-field distractions that plagued it in a 22-3 loss to Boston College.

Fifth-year senior defensive end Noland Burchette said the Hokies left the careless, selfish play up north and that he and his teammates seek a fresh start.

“Everything that we set out for at the beginning of the year is still right in front of us,” he said. “We feel like we could just start the run now, start the tape now — now you press play, that’s the way we look at it. Whatever you see from now on is going to be Virginia Tech, just hard-nosed and get after you.”

While preparing his defense on a short week — it has been just five days since Virginia Tech defeated Southern Miss and Clemson (7-1, 4-1) beat Georgia Tech — Foster said the team effort he saw Saturday is an improvement from outings earlier in the season.

“They’ve got to respond better [than they had],” he said. “And I think we did a better job of coming back and playing emotional defense and playing team defense.”

The Hokies may get a break today. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden will decide whether a battered Davis, whom Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has compared to former Southern California star Reggie Bush, will be able to play.

“Davis will probably be a game-time decision,” Bowden said yesterday. “We’ll go out there and see how well he takes contact. We practiced one day in pads this week, and the day we practiced in pads he could not get hit. So we’ll go out and test it pregame.”

Having to face only half of the Tigers’ “Thunder and Lightning” duo could ease pressure on the Virginia Tech defense. But it also would be a disappointment to the players.

“We’ve done watched so much film on those guys,” Burchette said. “They been down in the red zone so many times I can’t even explain.”

Burchette said he will know for sure as he makes his way through the tunnel tonight which Virginia Tech defense the Tigers will encounter in the red zone at Lane Stadium — the in-fighting crowd from Boston or the brutal bunch that Southern Miss faced.

“When we came out [Saturday] seeing the emotion of the team, looking in the other peoples’ eyes, I knew they was ready to go to war,” he said. “When we walk through that tunnel, just the look in the other person’s eyes [lets] you know they’re ready to go. You’re going to be able to tell how they’re going to be able to play.”

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