QUARTERBACK - In one of the all-time grittiest performances in Clemson history, Brandon Streeter completed 27-43 passes for 195 yards with virtually no protection from his offensive line. Given the fact that Streeter was knocked down by Hokie defenders on nearly every passing attempt, the senior quarterback was lucky to survive the game, never mind keep his team in contention for 57 minutes.
RUNNING BACKS- In his first start of the year, Travis Zachery did add a little punch to the meager Tiger running game with a few nice runs of over ten yards, but Clemson still lacks big play ability at the tailback position. Until the Tigers can force the defense to respect the run, the Clemson offense will be forced to be an exclusively passing team.
RECEIVERS- Rod Gardner continued to show NFL potential with his third solid game of the year. Gardner was eight in the nation in receptions per game heading into Thursday’s contest and should maintain a position in the top ten after catching nine balls for 94 yards against Virginia Tech. Brian Wofford also had seven catches and Mal Lawyer finished with four as the Tigers relied on quick passes of less than ten yards to control the ball. The effort was solid, but the Clemson receivers are overdue to break one loose for a touchdown.
OFFENSIVE LINE- If Thursday night’s game were a gun fight, the Clemson offensive line would have showed up with butter knives. Tech’s Corey Moore and company were consistently in Clemson’s backfield before Streeter could find the laces on the football. The Hokies overpowered the Tiger line up the middle while Moore simply out-quicked Clemson’s tackles on the outside. We’ve heard all year about how small and experienced Clemson is up front, but until Thursday night, we didn’t know they were slow as well. Quite simply, the Hokie front four dominated the Tiger line in every facet of the game. This situation must improve significantly for Clemson’s offense to run on all cylinders.
DEFENSIVE LINE- Much like their counterparts on the Clemson offensive line, the Tiger defensive front was pushed around early and often. While the Terry Jolly, Jason Holloman, and Terry Bryant all were involved in sacks of Hokie quarterback Michael Vick, the Tiger defensive line allowed Tech runner to run freely into the secondary. It’s rare that you see a Clemson defense give up such big chunks on the ground, but Virginia Tech’s Shyrone Stith was able to find gaping holes en route to a 166 yard rushing performance.
LINEBACKERS- The Clemson linebackers showed their inexperience for the first time this year on Thursday. Chad Carson’s pass interference call gave the Hokies a first down and missed tackles by Tiger linebackers allowed Virginia Tech runners to pick up a number of yards after contact. Still, Keith Adams was again impressive and Braxton K. Williams showed flashes of brilliance. While this group has loads of potential, they are still learning and mistakes will be made.
SECONDARY- Barring injury, Clemson safety Robert Carswell should be strongly considered for All-American honors. Carswell led the team with 19 tackles and picked off Micheal Vick twice as he once again showed that he is Clemson’s best football player. Alex Ardley continued his strong play at one corner and Dextra Polite was again solid at the other.
SPECIAL TEAMS- Well, they are consistent Again, Clemson showed that they are in desperate need of a kicker as Chris Cambell missed another field goal from under 40 yards. Punter Ryan Romano struggled with Virginia Tech’s pressure as he had two punts travel less than 30 yards. The obvious highlight of the Tiger special teams was kicker Tony Lazzara’s pass to Vince Ciurciu for Clemson’s only touchdown, but when it came down to actual kicking and punting, the Tiger’s were once again weak.
COACHING- Tommy showed that he is, in fact, a Bowden with his daring fake field goal in the fourth quarter. The play was huge, allowing the Tigers to pull within three and silence the Virginia Tech crowd. Two late Clemson turnovers killed the Tigers, but the fact is that Clemson went toe to toe with one of the better teams in the nation for 57 minutes. Although overmatched, Clemson played with heart and a solid game plan kept them in the game.