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Hokies Hope to Shut Down Tigers on the Ground
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #504, September 30, 2011
Virginia Tech is hoping that their success against the Clemson Tigers continues tomorrow. Since 1998, the Hokies have defeated Clemson five times, and all of the games have been blowouts. Two of those beatings occurred in Lane Stadium.
Over those five games, Virginia Tech has defeated Clemson by an average score of 34.8 to 12.2. Games just haven't been close. The closest margin over the last five games has been Tech's 24-7 victory back in 2006, when the Tigers were ranked #10 in the country.
There is one main reason why the Hokies have had so much success against Clemson recently. They have been a much tougher team in the trenches, and they have dominated the Tigers on the ground.
Meanwhile, Clemson running backs have enjoyed very little success against the Tech defense.
Stopping Clemson's running game will be very important for Virginia Tech yet again this season. The Tigers are averaging 187.3 yards per game on the ground, and tailback Andre Ellington has rushed for 371 yards on the year. Ellington has been somewhat banged up, but he has still been effective.
However, Clemson was only effective on the ground against Troy, Wofford and Auburn, three teams who have very questionable defenses. The best defense Clemson has faced, Florida State, held the Tigers to just 99 yards on the ground, and just under two yards per carry. Ellington averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in that game.
As we discussed earlier in the week in the game preview, it's very rare that a team beats Virginia Tech without establishing some kind of a running back. Not only must they establish something on the ground, but they have to stick with it, and not abandon it in favor of the pass.
The Tigers stuck with the run against Florida State despite not getting anything going, with 50 rushing attempts on the day out of 85 total plays. Look for them to do the same against Virginia Tech, unless the Hokies manage to build an early lead.
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