Problem Area: Third Down

The usual turnovers and dropped passes didn't plague Clemson on Thursday night at Virginia. The Tigers, who had only one of each, simply were overpowered in dropping their fourth straight, this one by a 30-10 score.

After driving 80 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, the Tigers (1-4, 1-3 ACC) managed only 131 more yards total offense the rest of the way. Defensively, the Tigers had problems containing the Cavaliers, especially on third downs.

The Cavaliers converted 14 of 20 third-down situations into first downs against the Tigers, and it didn't seem to matter if it was third and long, third and medium or third and short. Even on one of their failures to convert on third down, the Cavaliers got points on a field goal.

The Tigers' offense, on the other hand, was only 5-for-14 on converting third downs, one coming on their first series. They were only 2-for-7 in the second half, a futility that saw them limited to only six plays plus two punts in the entire third quarter. For the game, the Tigers had only 21 runs and 28 passes to Virginia's 80 offensive plays.

"We couldn't get them off the field -- a lot of third-down conversions to sustain drives -- and we're not getting those," Tommy Bowden said. "At some point in time, it is [the defense's] job to get off the field, and that is a factor. We're going to have to keep the ball and convert third downs to help those guys out."

Coming off a bye week, the Tigers had emphasized reducing turnovers and dropped passes, and they did manage that. Their lone turnover was QB Charlie Whitehurst's interception in the fourth quarter, which was fairly harmless, coming with Virginia already up 23-10.

The dropped pass was more significant. It came on Clemson's first series of the second half with the score only 13-10. The Cavaliers had seen a drive die inside the Tigers' 10-yard line on just their first lost fumble of the season. Facing third-and-6 at his 22, Whitehurst threw a strike to WR Airese Currie, who had the necessary yardage for the first down, but simply dropped the ball.

"Yeah, we finally had a game without turnovers -- they had two, we had one." Bowden said. "We've got a lot of work to do."

The Tigers face a daunting task, needing to win five of their last six to become bowl eligible. After getting Utah State at home Saturday, they are host to Maryland and North Carolina State before going to Miami Nov. 6. Top Stories