It was far from perfect but Clemson eventually found a way to grind out 100-plus yards on the ground and Tajh Boyd made enough plays through the air to give the Tigers three touchdowns and a field goal. Fortunately, that was enough. Virginia Tech did a solid job defensively, forcing a number of three and outs in the second half and keeping Sammy Watkins under control. But Boyd to Dwayne Allen was too much to overcome, and the Tigers did just enough on the ground on their final scoring drive, including an impressive touchdown run by freshman Mike Bellamy, to secure the win. A year ago this would have been one of the top offensive performances of the season. In 2011, amazingly, it will prove to be an afterthought. Oh by the way, all of this came in 40 degree weather with 20 mph winds and light rain for most of the game.
Virginia Tech? Handed its second-worst home loss in 30 years. Virginia Tech? Held without a touchdown at home for the first time in 16 years. Bravo Kevin Steele. Bravo Andre Branch. Bravo Brandon Thompson. Even Darius Robinson played well coming off the bench. Clemson routinely harassed Tech QB Logan Thomas and did a good enough job on David Wilson to force the Hokies to the air more than they would have liked. All in all, Virginia Tech was only able to muster 258 total yards and failed to cross the goal line. Folks, it just doesn't get much better than that. And by the way, when is the last time the Tigers beat a quality opponent in a defensive struggle? We can't remember either.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Chandler Catanzaro made his only field goal attempt and Dawson Zimmerman flipped the field time after time while Virginia Tech's kicking game struggled mightily. Yes, the bobbled snap on the last extra point was lame, but who cares? "Beamer Ball" was "Beamer Fail" Saturday night, which is good enough for Clemson's special teams to receive the "A" grade.
This is quickly starting to feel like the best coaching staff the Clemson football program has had in quite some time. Kevin Steele was brilliant. Chad Morris solved the blitzing chaos of Bud Foster. And Dabo? He's got his team believing they can beat anybody. Incredibly enough, he's convincing the rest of the country too.
This is arguably the biggest road win at Clemson in 25 years. The 1989 dismantling of Florida State in Tallahassee ranks up there, as does the 2004 and 2009 wins at Miami, but to do it at Virginia Tech - a program that has won four of the last seven ACC titles? Impressive. The Tigers now move from the hunters to the hunted the next couple of weeks as heavy favorites. Can this team continue to play well and find ways to win? Will they have another let down at some point in 2011, like Clemson seemingly does every year? Who knows? From what we've seen of this team, anything is possible, and certainly an ACC Championship and a BCS bid appears squarely in the Tigers' grasp. Do you believe?
GRADES: Do you believe?
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