Tigers Keep Bowl Hopes Alive
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The Clemson Tigers, looking to save what has been a strange and dissapointing season, kept the possibilities of post-season play alive with a 13-3 win in fridgid conditions in Charlottesville, Virginia over the Virginia Cavaliers. With the win, CU finishes the season at .500 in the ACC, while knocking UVA out of contention for the ACC Coastal Title.
The Tiger defense made several big stops in the second half, punctuated by DeAndre McDaniel's clinching INT with two minutes to go. Mark Buckholz' second field goal of the game at the 2:40 mark sealed the win for Clemson. Once again, CJ Spiller was key to the Tigers victory as he threw an early td pass to Tyler Grisham. He got help from senior James Davis, who provided several big runs down the stretch to give Clemson the late drive for the two-score difference.
This game will go down as a defensive struggle. Both defenses played hard-nosed physical football, with neither team giving up a "big" play all day. Spiller's trick play td to Grisham was less than twenty-five yards, and was one of the biggest on the day.
If you are a Tiger fan, things could have been better after the first half of football, but things could also have been worse. Three dropped passes, two on offense, one on defense, would have all resulted in Tiger first downs, and instead of 10-3, the score could very easily have been 17 or even 24-0. But the cold weather and the hard hitting kept things close.
Clemson running back Spiller again proved to be an elite college football player. The td pass to Tyler Grisham late in the first quarter put Clemson up 7-0 and showed his athletic ability in a different light. The junior, who has yet to declare if he will go pro or not after this season, has now provided his team with points via the run, the kickoff return, the touchdown catch, and now the touchdown pass. He says one of his career goals is a punt return for a touchdown. His touchdown pass for the early lead sparked the Clemson defense.
On the ensuing possesion, CU's Byron Maxwell hit UVA receiver Rashawn Jackson in one of the hardest collisions I have seen all season! The hit caused a fumble on the reception, which was recovered by a pack of Tigers. Both defenses played solid all 4 quarters, especially CU defensive back Michael Hamlin, who picked up his 13th career interception. He had another pick called back after a teammate jumped offsides.
Clemson's Cullen Harper was 13 of 20 for 88 yards at the half, but seemed to be playing hesitantly. He finished the game 18 of 28 for 121 yards with no picks and no scores. He had some drops, which weren't his fault, but seemed to roll out and backwards way too much with the arm he has. Virginia's Marc Verica finished 24 of 39 with three picks and no scores. His arm strength, at this point, is questionable. But then again, the game was played in the freezing cold, which is tough in the arm.
The Clemson secondary deserves the game ball. Michael Hamlin, Crezdon Butler and DeAndre McDaniel all intercepted UVA's Verica, while fellow defensive back Byron Maxwell had two sportscenter worthy plays. One was a bone crushing hit to force a fumble. The other was a key tackle for a loss on a fourth and 1.
Up next for both teams is a rivalry game to make a bowl. UVA must travel down to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. Clemson returns home to face South Carolina. The loss for UVA marks the 8th time in 8 seasons that Al Groh has not coached UVA into the ACC Championship game. Hoo fans must be wondering if they don't have a Tommy Bowden on their hands. The Cavaliers may be in the same boat next year that Clemson is in now: looking for a head coach. And speaking of the CU head coaching search, this win puts Dabo at 3-2 as interim.
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