Clemson, SC -- Clemson will meet Virginia Tech in the 56th Toyota Gator Bowl
at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville on January 1 at 12:30 PM. The
announcement was made Sunday afternoon by the Gator Bowl Association in
Jacksonville, FL. The game will be shown on national television by NBC.
This will mark the third straight season Clemson has played Frank
Beamer's Tech team. The Hokies have beaten the Tigers each of the last
two years, 37-0 at Clemson in 1998 and 31-11 at Virginia Tech in 1999.
Clemson trailedby just 17-11 and had theball with four minutes left in the
game last year before Virginia Tech scored two defensive touchdowns in the
final moments of the contest.
Clemson holds a 17-9-1 advantage in the series, which dates to
1900, a 17-5 Clemson victory. This will be the first meeting in a bowl
game between the two teams. Clemson's last win in the series took place
in 1989 in Blacksburg, VA by a 27-7 score.
Virginia Tech is ranked 5th in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN
Coach's poll and sixth by Associated Press, while Clemson is 13th by the
coach's poll and 16th by Associated press. Outside of the four games in
the Bowl Championship Series, this will be the only meeting of top 15
(Coach's poll) teams in the college bowl season.
This will be the highest ranked team Clemson has played in a bowl
game since the 1982 Orange Bowl (end of 1981 season) when a number-one
ranked Clemson team faced a #4 ranked Nebraska team for the National
"I said I wanted to play the highest ranked team possible," said
Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden. "I guess I got my wish. It will be a
great challenge for our football team. Virginia Tech has been a top five
team the last two years, a team that played for the National Championship
"We will face an opponent that features the most exciting player in
college football over the last two years (Michael Vick) and he will be
quite a test for our defense. I don't know anyone who has defense him
well when he has been healthy this year.
"It should be a great game for the fans and for national television
because Woodrow Dantzler is also a very exciting quarterback and has led us
to a record setting season. But, if you look at both teams offensively, it
is apparent that running the football is very important. Both teams are
ranked in the top 10 in the nation in rushing. It should be a great game.
I know our players are excited about playing a top five team. It is a
great opportunity for our program."
Clemson averages 236.4 rushing yards per game, 10th best in the
nation. Virginia Tech is ranked fifth in the country in rushing with a
270.5 average. The Tigers also throw for 210 yards a game one of just six
teams nationally to average at least 200 yards of each on a per game basis.
Virginia Tech averages 156 yards a game through the air.
Both teams also feature 1000-yard running backs who have set
touchdown records this year. Clemson's Travis Zachery, rushed for 1012
yards this past season, the ninth 1000-yard season in school history. He
scored 17 touchdowns to tie a Clemson single season record and now owns the
career touchdown mark with 38. Virginia Tech's Lee Suggs rushed for 1207
yards and 27 touchdowns this year. He also had one score receiving, giving
Suggs 28 touchdowns for the season, twice the previous Virginia Tech record.
Vick has led Virginia Tech to a 10-1 record overall. The only loss
was at Miami (FL) when the sophomore quarterback was limited by a foot
injury. For the year, Vick completed 87-161 passes for 1234 yards and
eight scores. He also rushed for 617 net yards and eight scores.
Dantzler led Clemson to a 9-2 regular season record. He was
limited by a foot injury in Clemson's two losses. For the year, Dantzler
has completed 122-212 passes for 1691 yards and 10 scores. Dantzler also
rushed for 947 yards, a Clemson single season record by a quarterback, and
13 rushing touchdowns. He tied for the ACC lead in rushing touchdowns and
ranked third in rushing yards per game. His 2638 yards of total offense
set a Clemson single season record. Overall, Dantzler set 15 school
records this year, giving him 16 for his career.
Clemson's top receiver is first-team All-American Rod Gardner, who
had 51 catches for 956 yards and six scores. He needs just four receptions
in the bowl game to become Clemson's all-time leader. Emmett Johnson has
been the leading receiver for the Hokies with 34-574 and three touchdowns.
Andre Davis had 24-318 and two scores.
Both teams excell in the punt return game, both are in the top 15
in the nation in that area. Davis has a 22-yard average and three punt
return touchdowns to lead Virginia Tech. Clemson has a 15.4 average in
the punt return area. Joe Don Reames and Brian Mance have both returned
punts for touchdowns this year.
Defensively, Clemson is led by Chad Carson's 146 tackles. The
junior from Georgia, who had 22 stops against Georgia Tech, also ranked
third on the team in tackles for loss with nine. First-team All-American
Keith Adams, a finalist for the Butkus Award, had 138 tackles for the
season, including a team best 18 tackles for loss. Robert Carswell, a
third-team Sporting News All-American, and Alex Ardley, a first-team
All-ACC cornerback, lead the secondary. Terry Jolly is a first-team
All-ACC defensive tackle who is a big reason Clemson ranks in the top 20 in
the nation in rushing defense.
Virginia Tech's defense features an outstanding secondary that had
23 interceptions for 227 return yards this year. Willie Pile led the
secondary with six interceptiosn. Ben Taylor is the leading tackler with
103, including seven tackles for loss.