Sean Renfree had time and space. The time to read a Russian epic, the space to build a country estate. No one crowded or hurried him.
Like any capable quarterback, Renfree took full advantage. Standing tall in the pocket, the
Crowder never broke stride as he caught Renfree's pass for a 62-yard touchdown.
Virginia Tech overcame that lapse, and a 20-point, first-quarter deficit, to rout Duke on Saturday. Similar missteps this week at 14th-ranked
"You don't want to get down against these guys," Hokies coach
Yes, the Tigers can, and their dynamic schemes and personnel combined with Tech's vulnerable defense makes Saturday's game among the most challenging in Bud Foster's 18 seasons as coordinator.
Foster has schemed against
Clemson may not have one signature talent to match those luminaries, but as Beamer said, the Tigers are dynamic "across the board." They boast the
Tight end Brandon Ford has four touchdown receptions, and while receiver Sammy Watkins has yet to flash last season's All-America form — he's missed three games, one with an illness and two due to suspension — he did throw a 52-yard touchdown pass against Florida State.
As if that's not enough, Chandler Catanzaro has made all 11 of his field goal attempts, including kicks of 40, 46 and 50 yards.
"They rush it, they throw it, a lot of misdirection, and just excellent people in their offense," Beamer said. "What they do (schematically) is good, but certainly they do it with great people."
Second-year coordinator Chad Morris' no-huddle spread has been a revelation at Clemson, traditionally a bastion of old-school offense. But even with Boyd in shotgun formation, the Tigers aren't one dimensional.
In fact, Clemson (5-1, 2-1 ACC) runs the ball more often (52.9 percent) than Tech (51.5 percent). The Tigers average 41.3 points and 525.8 yards, numbers that would shatter the school records of 36.0 and 446.5 set in 2000 under head coach Tommy Bowden.
They are, Foster told reporters after Monday's practice, "a booger to prepare for."
The Hokies (4-3, 2-1) ranked seventh nationally last year in scoring defense and 10th in total defense but lost twice to the Tigers, 23-3 in Blacksburg and 38-10 in the ACC championship game. Despite returning nine starters, Foster's group hasn't been nearly as effective this year — Tech is 37th in scoring defense and 55th in total defense, and allowed 495-plus yards in losses to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and North Carolina.
A principle reason has been the pass rush. The Hokies had 41 sacks last season and have only 13 this year. But after Renfree's early touchdown throw Saturday, Tech responded with a season-high five sacks.
Better yet, all five came from linemen: two by Luther Maddy, one each for James Gayle, Tyrel Wilson and Dadi Nicolas.
"You can definitely tell after analyzing the Duke game that it is a different defense in so far as the way that they are playing ... the effort level," Morris told the Charleston Post and Courier's Travis Sawchik. "Bud Foster will have them ready to play, I promise you that."
The Hokies need similar pressure Saturday against Boyd, whose thrown four interceptions in the last three games. They sacked him only twice last year.
"You give these guys time to run around, they're going to get open," Beamer said of Clemson's receivers. "They're athletic and can go, and Boyd can get the ball to them."
Might Foster unveil some new alignments designed specifically for the Tigers? Given his secondary's inexperience, probably not.
"We've got to play what we play and what we know," Beamer said. "I don't think you can go changing a lot of stuff here in the middle of the season."
The Tigers are at home, where Boyd is 10-0 as a starter, and they should be fresh after last week's open date. Tech's defense will not only have to play its best game but also get plenty of help from Logan Thomas and the offense.
Absent that, keep the number 56 in mind. That's the most points — in 2002 at