When Saturday Night rolls around in Blacksburg, and the still summery day gives way to fall weather, and all the pomp and frills of the day, including a visit from College Gameday, there is one fact that will inarguably rear its head: Virginia Tech has done horribly against Clemson in football. No, I’m not saying that the Hokies are certain to lose, nor am I trying to cast a tone of gloom and doom over the Virginia Tech fan base; Only to remind Hokies worldwide of a fact they needn’t be reminded of: The Hokies are terrible against the Tigers.
Why this matters: Well it does and it doesn’t. I myself have grown weary of talking heads and column inches being devoted to discussing all-time records against a team as if the players involved played some large part in them. In fact, for those involved in this game, the great majority of the games in this series were played before they were even born. What that has to do with these players, or any other players other than those who played in those games, is beyond me. But, when a team has been as bad as the Hokies have against the Tigers, I take notice. It’s therefore (At least to me) important to note that, without context (Because giving any kind of context suggesting that last year’s game or the game 10 years ago has anything to do with this year is, frankly, bogus).
What’s more disconcerting: The Tigers have had the Hokies’ number IN Blacksburg. At least AT Clemson the Hokies are 6-1-9 all-time (38%). They’re 1-3 in true neutral site games. They’re 1-0 in Columbia, South Carolina, and 0-1 in Roanoke. But in Blacksburg, the Hokies are a miserable 3-8 against the Tigers. All of this indicates why, in Virginia Tech’s 125-year history of playing football, the Hokies have the second-worst winning percentage against the Tigers (12-1-21, or 36.8%) of any team they have played 20 times.
Series History: In general, the Clemson series is one of the worst that the Hokies have played. The first game in the series was played in 1900, when the Tigers won a 12-5 contest in Charlotte. Tech won the rematch in Columbia a year later, 17-11. The series took a hiatus until 1906, where the teams tied at 0 at Clemson, representing the only tie between the two teams. Tech won the next match up two years later in Clemson 6-0. They also took the next one by the same score a year later, the first of the series in Blacksburg. The series was then put on ice for nearly two decades, before resuming in for two years in 1923 in Blacksburg and 1924 at Clemson, both dominating Tech wins. The two teams once again picked it up for two years in 1935 an 1936, with Tech losing both by three touchdown margins in Blacksburg and Clemson respectively.
A great deal of the damage from the Hokies’ 6-1-9 road record has been done at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, where Tech is 4-8. The venue opened in 1942, DURING World War II (A rarity as the nation's focus was places other than intercollegiate athletics), and the Hokies made their first visit after the fighting had concluded in 1945. Clemson blanked Tech 35-0 that year, and the Hokies' miserable time in the venue was underway. The Hokies dropped a touchdown loss in Blacksburg a year later. Tech won the next match up in "Death Valley" in 1954, before dropping the only game in Roanoke in the series the following year, but certainly validated Memorial Stadium’s namesake over the next three decades, going 0-5 (1956, 1960, 1976, 1980 and 1984) until a 1986 20-14 win there. Tech also managed to sandwich three home losses to Clemson in there (1977, 1979 and 1985). Basically, it wasn’t a good time.
Coach Beamer didn’t fare well in his first visit to the venue for the 1988 game (Or his home debut in the series, a 22-10 Clemson win in Blacksburg in 1987), an uninspiring 40-7 drubbing that didn't help to start off the coach's second year at the helm too well. The series took a hiatus until 1998, when Tech finally gave Clemson their comeuppance in a 37-0 shutout of the Tigers (I imagine there weren't many playings of the Tiger Rag that day. Also, Tiger Rag is the best fight song in college football and I won’t accept any arguments to the contrary) in Memorial Stadium. The Hokies also held the upper hand in the 1999 Corey Moore TerrorDome game.
The Hokies also met the Tigers for their one and only bowl match up (And neutral site win) in 2001 at the Toyota Gator Bowl, Michael Vick’s last collegiate game (And also the game where I lost my gobbler noisemaker). Tech joined the ACC in 2004, and won their first match up as conference foes, 24-7; A game in which Branden Ore starred instead of the more vaunted Clemson backfield. Since then, the Hokies have been back to Clemson twice, a 2007 41-23 waxing of the Tigers and their supposedly potent backfield and the aforementioned 38-17 2012 game in which Logan Thomas was "sacked" on third down while standing upright and completing a pass for a first down, a call which turned the game (though much of what happened to the Hokies thereafter was self-inflicted). All-in-all, this is a place that Hokie fans won't miss when it's all said and done.
2011 marked the only time the Hokies and Clemson played in the same calendar year, as Tech lost a miserable 23-3 game at home early in the year (Logan Thomas’ first loss as a starter...He was also 4-0 coming into the game). Tech had one of their best stretches in team history after that game, but lost handsomely in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte (A game where a missed blocked kick call turned the tide, but again, Tech didn’t recover well in the aftermath, a hallmark of Beamer teams). The two also matched up in last year’s ACC title game, which Clemson won 42-35 in a hard fought contest.
What to make of these numbers: Virginia Tech hasn’t had much success against Clemson. That could continue, or change under second-year head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies will be home underdogs, something they aren’t that used to, but they hold the keys to their own success, and can write their part in the history of this series Saturday night.