Thursday Night Football: Clemson at Virginia Tech

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Clemson will need some help if it hopes to play for a conference championship. The Tigers know they'll also have to do their part.

The 10th-ranked Tigers (7-1, 4-1 ACC) look to extend their longest winning streak in seven years when they visit Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-2) on Thursday night.

Clemson won its sixth straight Saturday, 31-7 over then-No. 13 Georgia Tech. The Tigers hadn't had a win streak that long since opening the 2000 season 8-0.

Clemson's only loss this season came Sept. 9, when Jad Dean missed an extra point that sent the Tigers to a 34-33 double-overtime defeat against Boston College. The Eagles, who also have just one loss, would earn the Atlantic Division spot in the ACC championship game Dec. 2 if they and the Tigers both win out.

Coach Tommy Bowden, however, said he hopes his team isn't thinking about a trip to the conference title game just yet.

``I know what I got and I think my team's pretty focused on what it has to do,'' Bowden said. ``There's so much more football. I don't think they've thought that far ahead. I hope they haven't.''

The Tigers looked impressive in handing the Yellow Jackets their first conference loss of the season. James ``Thunder'' Davis, the ACC leader with 120.1 rushing yards per game and 16 touchdowns, ran for a career-best 216 yards and two scores.

Davis, though, only has a ''50-50'' chance to play in this game, according to Bowden, due to a shoulder injury suffered in last Saturday's game.

``It'd probably be a game day decision whether he's going to play or not,'' Bowden said.

C.J. ``Lightning'' Spiller, Davis' smaller and quicker counterpart, would take over the bulk of the carries if Davis is unable to play. Spiller had a 50-yard touchdown run and a 50-yard touchdown catch last Saturday, and finished with 116 yards on 16 rushes.

``That's one thing a little more unique about this team,'' Bowden said. ``It has suffered some significant injuries and still, somehow, has recovered, absorbed those, and continued on.''

The Tigers lead the ACC with 259.4 rushing yards and 454.9 total yards per game.

Clemson complements its versatile ground game with a defense that's limiting opponents to a conference-low 230.4 yards per contest. The Tigers held star Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson without a catch for the first time in his career.

Clemson has outscored its last five opponents 224-40.

``The key was the defensive line. We got pressure on them early and kept it coming the entire game,'' defensive end Gaines Adams said. ``This was a special win.''

Receiver Chansi Stuckey, who has missed three games with a broken foot, is expected to return against Virginia Tech, but senior offensive lineman Roman Fry will be out after suffering a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament that will end his college career.

A candidate for the Outland Trophy, Fry has started all eight games this season for Clemson. He'll be replaced by junior Chris McDuffie.

``He will be difficult to replace on the field and in terms of senior leadership,'' said Bowden, whose team has lost four starters to injury. ``When you look at our high national rankings in rushing, scoring and total offense, Roman has had a lot to do with it.''

The Tigers could use Fry's presence against a Virginia Tech defense that is giving up just 98.6 rushing yards per game and ranks second in the conference behind Clemson with 242.7 total yards allowed per contest.

The Hokies have won their last three meetings with the Tigers, including a 41-20 Gator Bowl victory Jan. 1, 2001 in the last matchup. Clemson leads the series 17-10-1.

``The atmosphere up in Blacksburg is going to be good for motivation,'' Bowden said.

The Hokies avoided a third straight loss Saturday, beating Southern Mississippi 36-6. Branden Ore, second in the ACC with 105.1 rushing yards per game, ran for a career-best 207 yards and two touchdowns.

``Once we get things clicking on offense, I think our defense gets a little spark, and vice versa,'' Ore said.

Virginia Tech was outscored a combined 60-30 in consecutive defeats to Georgia Tech and Boston College, gaining a total of 75 rushing yards.

Hokies coach Frank Beamer will look to give his offense a spark Thursday by playing backup quarterback Ike Whitaker in place of starter Sean Glennon at times. Beamer wants to give Clemson the different looks of Glennon's drop-back passing and Whitaker's scrambling ability.

``Sean Glennon has played very, very well for this football team,'' Beamer said. ``It's certainly not a shot at Sean. It's just that you've got Ike that has an ability over here, and you'd like to get that incorporated into the game plan.''

by: Anthony White - - Email Us

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