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Clemson is becoming Virginia Tech's nemesis

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Virginia Tech lost twice to the Tigers in 2011

There were temporary stumbles against Matt Ryan and Boston College. But Virginia Tech has never had an ACC foe worthy of the term "nemesis." With more conference titles (four) and ACC Championship Game appearances (five) than any team since joining the league in 2004, the Hokies have been immune.

But with a victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, Clemson would become the first ACC team to beat the Hokies three straight times since they moved from the Big East eight years ago.

When asked about Clemson's pair of wins last season -- one in Blacksburg and one in the ACC title game -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer tried to deflect the "nemesis" question.

Up Next
Virginia Tech at No. 19 Clemson
When » Saturday, noon
Where » Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV »
ABC

"The facts are, they're the [19th ranked] team in the country and are a really good football team," Beamer told reporters on Tuesday. "Any time you go into a game against a team of this caliber and you can win it, it makes a great statement about your program."

Admitting his ACC sovereignty is threatened is a big step for Beamer. Even with a loss on Saturday, Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1) would still be alive in the underwhelming ACC Coastal Division, which includes Miami (4-3, 3-1), North Carolina (5-2, 2-1) and Duke (5-2, 2-1). But there are indications that the Hokies are slipping.

Losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, teams from the conference Virginia Tech fled, were stunners. In a 48-34 loss at UNC, the Hokies were outrushed 339-40. Last week against Duke, a team Virginia Tech has steamrolled 12 straight times, there were anxious moments in the first quarter as the Hokies trailed by 20 points before storming back for a 41-20 victory.

But there have been successful seasons like this in the past for the notoriously slow-starting Hokies. Even in the win over Duke there was a silver lining as for the first time this year, a Virginia Tech back cracked 100 yards rushing.

Highly touted freshman J.C. Coleman rushed for 183 yards, scoring on long-distance blasts of 86 and 45 yards. Coleman's emergence takes pressure off quarterback Logan Thomas, who ranks seventh in the ACC in passing efficiency after being named second-team all-conference last year.

"J.C. is a heck of a back, just like the other three or four are for us. The running game in general helps out the quarterback so much," Thomas said. "When we're balanced we're tough to beat. It keeps them off-balanced. That's the way we need to play. That's the way we've played in the past."

In last year's pair of losses to Clemson by a combined score of 61-13, Thomas was under siege. He was sacked six times and hurried on many other occasions, completing a combined 37 of 71 passes for 399 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown.

His numbers failed to measure up to those of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who went a combined 33 for 61 for 444 yards, with one interception and four touchdowns.

"I don't go into it at all with a matchup mentality with the other quarterback," Thomas said. "My matchup's against the defense. It doesn't matter if I have zero touchdowns and zero yards passing. If we win I'll be a happy camper either way."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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