CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The numbers almost seem impossible: 14-of-20 third down conversions. <BR><BR>…
It extended preparation was useless as the Cavaliers dominated every aspect of the contest to run away with a 30-10 victory Thursday night in front of 61,833 at Scott Field.
And unlike the previous four games, turnovers weren't a problem for the Tigers. Other than quarterback Charlie Whitehurst's late interception, which had very little, if any, affect on the game, Clemson protected the ball. It was, however, the 10th straight game in which Whitehurst has thrown a pick.
And that is the frustrating part for Bowden.
"I wanted to see how we played without turnovers and tell how far we've got to go," he said. "Well, we've got a ways to go. I've got a lot of work to do as head coach of this team. It falls on my shoulders. I've got to find guys that can be productive and find the players that can run the schemes. That's my job.
"We finally had a game without turnovers … we've got a lot of work to do. And that's kind of obvious."
With the loss, Clemson drops to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is the Tigers' first four-game losing streak since 1998. The loss means that they can only afford one more defeat in their remaining six games if they want to go to a bowl game.
The Cavaliers improve to 5-0, 2-0 ACC and get ready for a big showdown next week at Florida State.
As has been the case for the entire season, the Tigers were unable to mount any sort of consistency on offense, while at the same time being unable to slow down the offense of their opponents.
Case in point: Virginia rushed for an incredible 239 yards on 54 carries, while the Tigers managed just 45 yards rushing on 21 attempts.
The Cavaliers were 14-of-20 on third down conversions, with two of their failed attempts coming at the end on each half on giveaway plays. When they tried, they made 14-of-18.
Virginia threw for 225 yards on just 14 completions, while Whitehurst, who had his best game passing since Georgia Tech, threw for 166 yards on 16 completions.
For the second straight game, the Clemson defense was on the field in the second half for more than 21 minutes.
Any way it's sliced, it was downright ugly.
"Right now, (Virginia coach Al Groh) is getting more out of his (players) than I'm getting out of mine," Bowden said. "They're pretty talented, though. You'll see all those guys playing on Sundays. It's my job to get similar type players and do a better job of coaching."
The theme the entire contest was Virginia's ability to control the ball and clock, as well as its ability to convert third downs into first downs. No matter what the Tigers did on defense, it rarely worked.
At one point in the first half, Clemson blitzed 17 straight plays. However, the Cavaliers still picked up chunks of yardage.
What makes the Cavaliers so good is that there are several players on offense who contribute in a major way, as was evident Thursday night.
"Coming into the season, I felt like (Clemson) was going to be one of the most talented and best teams in the conference," Groh said. "We did a very good job on their dynamic playmakers today. … The players knew what their challenges were, and they responded to those challenges." Virginia salted things away after Pearman crossed the goal line from two yards out with 5:14 left to play. It was the end of 27 unanswered points for the Cavaliers.
Virginia had another score earlier in the fourth quarter when Pearman scored again on a two-yard run, which made it 23-10.
It was easy to see the night belonged to Virginia when its field goal kicker, Connor Hughes, kicked a 50-yard field goal right down the middle in the third quarter that increased the lead to 16-10.
The kick might have been good from 60 yards.
The first half was a completely different set of circumstances as the Tigers looked decent on offense. But they had their struggles in the second quarter.
Clemson amassed 80 yards on its opening drive to start the game and managed just 60 yards of offense the rest of the way.
The Tigers tried to run the ball more by having 12 carries between tailbacks Duane Coleman and Yusef Kelly. The problem was Coleman averaged 3.1 yards per carry and Kelly averaged just 2.2 yards per attempt.
Whitehurst had his best half of play in quite a while as he connected on 7-of-12 pass attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown. But what was even more encouraging for the Tigers was the fact that they didn't commit a single turnover.
Nonetheless, Clemson still trailed 13-10 at halftime.
Virginia took its first lead of the night after Hagans hit big tight end Heath Miller on a three-yard pass for a touchdown with 5:39 remaining until halftime.
Earlier in the second quarter, Virginia put together an 11-play drive that resulted in only a field, but it did cut the Tigers' lead to 10-6 with 11:03 left in the quarter.
The Tigers scored their final points of the first half when placekicker Jad Dean booted his first-ever field goal for Clemson. The kick was from 43 yards to give the Tigers a 10-3 lead with 0:25 left in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers first got on the scoreboard following a 12-play drive that chewed up 4:33 that ended with a 21-yard field goal by Hughes with 7:16 remaining in the first quarter.
The long drive by Virginia was just a sign of things to come.
Clemson opened the game exactly the way it wanted and need to, by putting together one of its better drives of the year and marching 80 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time all season that the Tigers scored on their first drive.
The Tigers opened up with double tight ends pinched in tight to the rest of the offensive line. They proceeded to run the ball three straight plays, before using a play-action pass to tight end Ben Hall, who was wide open down the middle for a gain of 56 yards, which spotted the ball at the Virginia 6.
Two plays later, Coleman caught a five-yard pass from Whitehurst to give the Tigers a 7-0 with 11:49 left in the first quarter. It was the only touchdown Clemson scored and just the third touchdown in its last three games.
"We've got to do something," Tigers defensive tackle Eric Coleman said. "We've got to find out what it is that's not going for us."
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