Exactly 62 days ago, the Clemson Tigers came into Blacksburg and gave the Hokies a thrashing that no fan has forgotten.
In that postgame press conference, a somber Frank Beamer made it clear that from there on out, his team had one goal: a rematch.
Two months and seven wins later, the Hokies have accomplished that goal and are now headed to Charlotte, N.C., where they get a shot to not only wipe away the memory of an ugly 23-3 loss, but also win a fourth ACC Championship in five years.
“I think we’re a better football team now than we were then,” said Bud Foster, defensive coordinator.” I think, offensively, we’ve gotten better. I think, defensively, we’ve gotten better, and I hope that shows on Saturday night.”
The Hokies’ improvement since that Oct. 1 matchup is hard to ignore, and statistically speaking, Tech has appeared to be a completely different team on offense.
Excluding the blowout of Football Championship Subdivision opponent Appalachian State, the Hokies have averaged 80 yards and 12 points more per game — mainly due to the improvement of redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas.
“He’s always in control on the football field, and I think as he’s gained experience, he knows where he wants to go with the ball,” Beamer said. “He’s more accurate because he knows that sooner, and it all just comes with experience.”
David Wilson, who was named ACC Player of the Year this week, has also continued his run of dominance, sitting just 61 yards away Tech’s single-season rushing record.
Wilson put up 127 yards in the first meeting, and considering Clemson is No. 92 in the nation against the run, Wilson could be the X-factor.
“He’s a great running back,” said Rashard Hall, Clemson’s senior safety. “He runs hard, has great vision and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Those are the attributes he brings to the game. He’s just a running back in those regards, and that’s what makes him special among other running backs in the ACC and the SEC of all the teams we play.”
Defensively, the Hokies have continued to be a unit that ranks among the best in nation, even after losing some of its leaders. Yet despite the losses of Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Bruce Taylor and Antoine Hopkins, Tech is still No. 7 in the country in scoring defense — a feat that Beamer gives Foster all of the credit.