Clemson University

Hokies try for better result at Clemson

CLEMSON -- The last time No. 15 Virginia Tech traveled to a noisy, packed stadium nicknamed "Death Valley" to take on the Tigers, things didn't go so well for the Hokies.

The result four weeks ago: LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7.

Hokies coach Frank Beamer said heading to No. 22 Clemson on Saturday will "give us an indication, can we handle things a little bit better."

Anything has to be an improvement over the LSU debacle on Sept. 8. The Hokies trailed 24-0 after 18 minutes and were outgained 327-40 during the first half. Virginia Tech's defense hadn't surrendered that many points in a regular-season game since 1996.

Steadily, Beamer began rebuilding the Hokies and their confidence. Freshman Tyrod Taylor replaced Sean Glennon at quarterback and Virginia Tech's defense has only 20 points in the three games since against Ohio University, William & Mary and North Carolina.

Beamer realizes, though, the stakes are the highest they've been since the LSU loss.

"When you talk about Clemson, it's kind of one of those 'hold your breath teams,"' Beamer said. "They're very, very dangerous."

Clemson fans know a lot about holding their breath, unsure whether they'll see the Tigers who moved out to a 4-0 start, or the tamer team that made mistakes on offense and special teams to fall 13-3 at Georgia Tech last week.

That was the situation a year ago when Clemson took on Virginia Tech. The Tigers had just hammered Georgia Tech on national TV and risen to 10th in the country when they played the Hokies.

Coordinator Bud Foster's defense stopped star Clemson backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller cold, while Branden Ore ran for a career-high 203 yards in Virginia Tech's 24-7 victory. That began a slide that Clemson couldn't pull out of, following a 7-1 start with a 1-4 finish.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said after watching film that his team's problems in last week's defeat were correctible mistakes they made, instead of ones caused by the opponent. Kicker Mark Buchholz missed four of five field goals. The Tigers had a punt blocked that led to Georgia Tech's lone touchdown. Clemson also had a touchdown called back because of a penalty.

"The problems were self-inflicted," Bowden said.

This week, Bowden kept Buchholz -- who also plays on Clemson's soccer team -- longer at football practices and simulated game action during kick attempts.

The Tigers also worked to get their star runners, James Davis and C.J. Spiller, reignited after the two combined for 62 yards rushing on 21 carries a week ago.

Davis has undergone treatment for a shoulder "stinger" he sustained last week, but is expected to start Saturday.

Spiller thinks the Tigers can tap into a similar motivation as Georgia Tech carried last week against Clemson, remembering how Virginia Tech stopped their rise. Plus, the Tigers understand what they'll face Saturday.

"If you get past one guy, they'll have three or four more waiting to get you," Spiller said.

Beamer, the Virginia Tech coach, is happy with Taylor's progress at quarterback. However, the young passer is far from the polished product Beamer envisions in future seasons. "He can really throw the football and is very athletic," Beamer said. "The other parts of it, where's the defense, where should the ball be going, is a learning experience each day."

Clemson's defense is likely to pressure Taylor as often as it can. "It's going to be a big test for all of us, especially" Taylor, Virginia Tech offensive lineman Duane Brown said.

Beamer hopes Taylor and the other Hokies can keep moving forward this week, finally getting a win at this Death Valley to erase that earlier memory.

Associated Press Writer Sue Lindsey in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this report.