Virginia came into Death Valley riding high off a last second win against North Carolina. On Saturday, the Clemson Tigers brought them back down to earth.
“I don’t know if we were tired or what, but Clemson outplayed us in every facet of the game and they deserved to win,” said Virginia quarterback Dan Ellis.
“They completely controlled the game. They just came ready to play,” said Shenard Newby, a freshman Cavalier defensive back.
Virginia players struggled to find the answers for their lackluster performance.
“I think we came out flat and we stayed flat and I’m not sure why,” said senior offensive guard Noel LaMontagne. “I think maybe a lot of people were expecting to win, but you can’t come into a place like Death Valley and expect to run over somebody.”
Virginia’s much-heralded running back Thomas Jones was held relatively check by the Tiger defense. Jones finished the game with 97 yards on 23 carries.
“I really don’t think I played that well. Clemson’s defense was fast to the ball and aggressive, just like every year. They just outplayed us,” Jones said.
Ellis said that Clemson’s early domination forced the Cavaliers to abandon the run.
“They played eight, nine guys in the box and tried to make me beat them along with our receivers. When they got up on us, we had to scratch the running game in the second half,” Ellis said.
Clemson quarterback Brandon Streeter’s school-record 342-yard passing performance didn’t go unappreciated by the Virginia players.
“Streeter didn’t hardly miss on any passes,” said linebacker Byron Thweatt.
“When you’ve got a quarterback just sitting back there picking you apart, there’s nothing you can’t do about it.”
LaMontagne, a Pennsylvania native like Steeter, was also impressed by the Clemson’s quarteback’s play.
“I played against Brandon in high school. It was great to see him come out and perform the way he did.”
When it was all said and done Saturday, the Tigers had made a solid Virginia team look bad in Tommy Bowden’s first win as Clemson coach. Virginia linebacker Yubranal Isabelle adequately summed up the day in two sentences.
“Clemson came out mentally prepared and they just played fast. They knew what they had to do and they did it.”