January 18, 2022

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Virginia Tech’s plan against Clemson was good one, but it fell apart

BLACKSBURG, Va. — It was ultimately another disaster for Virginia Tech, but the Hokies on Saturday night showed how inferior college football teams might have the best chance against powerhouse Clemson. 

The plan fell apart in a 45-10 loss, the Hokies’ fourth straight defeat, and the handful of fans in attendance were shaking mad by the end. Either that or they were just trying to keep from becoming frozen turkeys in a wind-chill of about 25 degrees. 

Virginia Tech wanted to shorten the game, limit possessions with a ball-control offense, and had the offense to do it with one of the best rushing attacks in the country. It was working for a while. Clemson had only four possessions in the first half and led only 17-10. 

Keeping the quarterback upright and healthy was important, too. Using two quarterbacks wouldn’t have been a bad strategy, either, to literally throw another wrinkle at the Clemson defense. Well, the second happened because the first didn’t and that was a problem. Virginia Tech starter Hendon Hooker was hurt on the opening series. 

More:Five takeaways from Clemson’s victory at Virginia Tech

The third factor would be crowd support, which is usually not a problem for night games in Blacksburg. But in a season with a pandemic and a team that has been anemic, Lane Stadium was practically empty. Up to a thousand fans were allowed in. It was closer to a hundred. Low enough to attempt actually counting them by hand, anyway. 

“There was nobody here,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought our guys did a good job of creating their own energy and being excited to play.” 

When it was 10-10 in the second quarter, it appeared there were fans on the far side doing the wave. But it was just cardboard cutouts blowing in the wind. One of them was Bernie from the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.” In reality, the whole place was dead. 

Virginia Tech backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister, on a night when he put the burr in Burmeister, provided some life. He completed 10 of 12 passes for 127 yards before he was injured as well. And when he had to leave, Hooker gave the cold shoulder. 

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