Special Teams Cost Tigers Again


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Pressed on poor special teams play after last Saturday's loss at Georgia Tech, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden vowed to keep working at solving what has become a yearly issue. He also told reporters that despite the work, special teams problems happen to all teams and would continue to do so. - next week, next year.

Little did he know how prophetic he would be.

The Tigers' beleaguered special teams gave up an 81-yard punt return for one score and a 100-yard kick off return for another in falling way behind early, virtually handing Virginia Tech what became a 41-23 victory Saturday night at Death Valley. The loss was Clemson's second straight, both inside the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The early self-destruction short-circuited what would become a furious fourth-quarter rally. Afterwards, Bowden remained adamant that he and his staff would find a way to correct the problem.

"We can't work any longer or harder (on special teams)," he said afterwards. "We're going to have to try different personnel. We've got to find the guy that can protect and get down the field and cover on punts. Same thing on kickoffs...The players fought back, but we were in too deep a hole early."

The Tigers were behind 7-0 less than two minutes into the game when D.J. Parker picked off an errant Cullen Harper pass and ran it back 32-yards for a touchdown.

Then, almost before the Tigers (4-2, 2-2 ACC) could get warmed up, Tech (5-1, 2-0) struck again.

First, Jud Dunleavy made it 10-0 with a short field goal with 6:11 left in the quarter. And after Clemson went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, Eddie Royal returned Jimmy Maners' punt 81 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

The lead stayed there until the 7:16 mark of the second quarter when Mark Buchholz put the Tigers on the board with a 33-yard field goal to cut it to 17-3.

But then Victor Harris took the kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and went bobbing and weaving through the Clemson coverage team for a school record-tying return - officially 100 yards - for yet another touchdown and a 24-3 advantage.

It was 31-8 at the half, despite Tech having just 98 yards of total offense.

By that point the Tigers were pretty much a one-dimensional team. With a running game stuffed by the Hokies' front seven, Harper ended up throwing 66 times on the night - completing 38 - for 372 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"We had to abandon the running game because we weren't making an inch," Bowden said. "We were too far behind to waste plays, so we had to start throwing it."

The Tigers tried to rally in the second half behind Harper's right arm, closing to 31-15 on the first play of the fourth quarter when the junior quarterback found Tyler Grisham in the end zone on fourth and goal from the Tech three.

They had a chance to draw within a single score on the next possession, but on another fourth down play an apparent scoring pass to C.J. Spiller was waved off because Spiller stepped out of bounds and came back in play before making the catch.

A Hokie field goal and, later, a pair of big running plays by freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor kept Clemson at bay as the quarter wore on.

Harper would later throw another scoring pass to Aaron Kelly (18 yards) to make it 34-23 - after the two-point conversion to Grisham - with just under five minutes left in the game.

But Clemson couldn't recover an onside kick, and Virginia Tech added a final touchdown in the game's final minute.

"We have to correct the negatives that came out of the game, then find the positives and build on them," said Bowden. "We're halfway through the season. We've got to get healed, correct the mistakes and get ready for the second half of the season."

Clemson is off next Saturday, then returns home Oct. 20 to host Central Michigan for Homecoming.


Virginia Tech (5-1,2-0) vs. Clemson (4-2,2-2)
Date: Oct 06, 2007  Site: Clemson, SC           
Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Attendance: 82000

Score by Quarters     1  2  3  4   Score
-----------------    -- -- -- --   -----
Virginia Tech....... 17 14  0 10  - 41
Clemson.............  0  8  0 15  - 23

Scoring Summary:
1st 13:50 VT - Parker, DJ 32 yd interception return (Dunlevy, J kick), , VT 7 - CU 0
    06:11 VT - Dunlevy, J 32 yd field goal, 6-28 2:51, VT 10 - CU 0
    04:48 VT - Royal, E 82 yd punt return (Dunlevy, J kick), , VT 17 - CU 0
2nd 07:16 CU - Buchholz, M 33 yd field goal, 10-41 2:57, VT 17 - CU 3
    06:59 VT - Harris, V 100 yd kickoff return (Dunlevy, J kick), , VT 24 - CU 3
    03:36 CU - Merling, P safety, , VT 24 - CU 5
    02:17 VT - Harper, J 21 yd pass from Taylor, T (Dunlevy, J kick), 5-49 0:52, VT 31 - CU 5
    00:07 CU - Buchholz, M 30 yd field goal, 10-57 2:10, VT 31 - CU 8
4th 14:12 CU - Grisham, T 3 yd pass from Harper, C (Buchholz, M kick), 14-87 4:58, VT 31 - CU 15
    07:10 VT - Dunlevy, J 47 yd field goal, 7-58 3:17, VT 34 - CU 15
    04:29 CU - Kelly, A 18 yd pass from Harper, C (Grisham, T pass from Harper, C), 9-64 2:41, VT 34 - CU 23
    00:50 VT - Ore, B 2 yd run (Dunlevy, J kick), 8-42 3:39, VT 41 - CU 23



                                    VT       CU

FIRST DOWNS...................        9       20
  Rushing.....................        5        1
  Passing.....................        4       18
  Penalty.....................        0        1
NET YARDS RUSHING.............      154        8
  Rushing Attempts............       41       23
  Average Per Rush............      3.8      0.3
  Rushing Touchdowns..........        1        0
  Yards Gained Rushing........      170       45
  Yards Lost Rushing..........       16       37
NET YARDS PASSING.............       65      372
  Completions-Attempts-Int....   7-14-0  38-67-2
  Average Per Attempt.........      4.6      5.6
  Average Per Completion......      9.3      9.8
  Passing Touchdowns..........        1        2
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS...........      219      380
  Total offense plays.........       55       90
  Average Gain Per Play.......      4.0      4.2
Fumbles: Number-Lost..........      3-0      2-1
Penalties: Number-Yards.......     6-52     7-53
PUNTS-YARDS...................    8-371    7-336
  Average Yards Per Punt......     46.4     48.0
  Net Yards Per Punt..........     32.0     30.0
  Inside 20...................        2        1
  50+ Yards...................        4        3
  Touchbacks..................        3        0
  Fair catch..................        0        1
KICKOFFS-YARDS................    9-551    4-261
  Average Yards Per Kickoff...     61.2     65.2
  Net Yards Per Kickoff.......     47.1     27.2
  Touchbacks..................        2        0
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD.  4-126-1   4-55-0
  Average Per Return..........     31.5     13.8
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD  4-152-1   6-87-0
  Average Per Return..........     38.0     14.5
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD..   2-32-1    0-0-0
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD.    0-0-0    0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards...........        0        0
Possession Time...............    27:16    32:44
  1st Quarter.................     6:05     8:55
  2nd Quarter.................     5:21     9:39
  3rd Quarter.................     6:38     8:22
  4th Quarter.................     9:12     5:48
Third-Down Conversions........  3 of 14  2 of 18
Fourth-Down Conversions.......   0 of 0   3 of 5
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......      2-2      4-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards........     4-24      2-6
PAT Kicks.....................      5-5      1-1
Field Goals...................      2-2      2-2

Individual Statistics 

Virginia Tech

Rushing         No Gain Loss  Net TD Lg  Avg
--------------------------------------------
Taylor, T       15  126    8  118  0 52  7.9
Ore, B          23   42    7   35  1  9  1.5
Lewis, K         3    2    1    1  0  2  0.3
Totals...       41  170   16  154  1 52  3.8

Passing         Att-Cmp-Int Yds TD Long Sack
--------------------------------------------
Taylor, T         14-7-0     65  1   22    2
Totals...         14-7-0     65  1   22    2

Receiving        No.  Yds   TD Long
-----------------------------------
Harper, J          3   33    1   21
Hyman, J           2   31    0   22
Morgan, J          1    4    0    4
Ore, B             1   -3    0    0
Totals...          7   65    1   22

Punting          No.  Yds   Avg Long In20   TB
----------------------------------------------
Bowden, B          8  371  46.4   57    2    3
Totals...          8  371  46.4   57    2    3

                  Punts   Kickoffs  Intercept
All Returns     No.Yds.Lg No.Yds.Lg No.Yds.Lg
---------------------------------------------
Morgan, J        0   0  0  3  52 34  0   0  0
Parker, DJ       0   0  0  0   0  0  1  32 32
Harris, V        1   9  9  1 100 100  1   0  0
Royal, E         3 117 82  0   0  0  0   0  0
Totals...        4 126 82  4 152 100  2  32 32

Field goal attempts
----------------------------------------
Dunlevy, J      1st 06:11  32 yds - Good
Dunlevy, J      4th 07:10  47 yds - Good

Kickoffs         No.  Yds  TB  OB   Avg
---------------------------------------
Bowden, B          1   48   0   0  48.0
Develli, J         8  503   2   0  62.9



Clemson

Rushing         No Gain Loss  Net TD Lg  Avg
--------------------------------------------
Davis, J         6   10    1    9  0  5  1.5
Spiller, C       6    9    6    3  0  5  0.5
Harper, C       11   26   30   -4  0  7 -0.4
Totals...       23   45   37    8  0  7  0.3

Passing         Att-Cmp-Int Yds TD Long Sack
--------------------------------------------
Harper, C         66-38-2   372  2   32    4
TEAM               1-0-0      0  0    0    0
Totals...         67-38-2   372  2   32    4

Receiving        No.  Yds   TD Long
-----------------------------------
Kelly, A          11  174    1   32
Grisham, T        11  100    1   27
Spiller, C         6   29    0   10
Ashe, T            5   44    0   21
Harris, L          2   18    0   11
Davis, J           2    5    0    4
Linthicum, B       1    2    0    2
Totals...         38  372    2   32

Punting          No.  Yds   Avg Long In20   TB
----------------------------------------------
Maners, J          7  336  48.0   52    1    0
Totals...          7  336  48.0   52    1    0

                  Punts   Kickoffs  Intercept
All Returns     No.Yds.Lg No.Yds.Lg No.Yds.Lg
---------------------------------------------
Spiller, C       4  55 38  4  69 30  0   0  0
Linthicum, B     0   0  0  1   7  7  0   0  0
Palmer, M        0   0  0  1  11 11  0   0  0
Totals...        4  55 38  6  87 30  0   0  0

Field goal attempts
----------------------------------------
Buchholz, M     2nd 07:16  33 yds - Good
Buchholz, M     2nd 00:07  30 yds - Good

Kickoffs         No.  Yds  TB  OB   Avg
---------------------------------------
Buchholz, M        4  261   0   0  65.2

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