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Tag:ACC Championship Game
Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:38 pm
 

Clemson claims ACC Championship with 38-10 win



Posted by Chip Patterson


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Streaks, trends, and traditions. These things did not matter to a young Clemson team as they rode an explosive third quarter to a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech for their first ACC Championship since 1991.

After both teams finished an evenly played first half, the Tigers that emerged from the locker room after the break looked much more like the Tigers that knocked off three straight ranked opponents and was considered outside contenders for a BCS title.

Clemson's BCS dreams were crushed by losing three of their final four games in the regular season, but head coach Dabo Swinney will find plenty of consolation in the first conference title in 20 years and his first BCS bowl berth as a head coach. The experts had the Tigers as underdogs against the defending champions, who entered the game in a very different manner riding a seven-game winning streak.

Tajh Boyd shook off the "phantom pressure" from the last month and hung in the pocket to complete 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, the Clemson offensive line only allowed Boyd to be sacked once. But Boyd wasn't the only the star shining bright in front of a sold-out crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins, both limited during Clemson's slump with nagging injuries, looked explosive as ever against Virginia Tech's defense. Ellington ran 20 times for 125 yards and a touchdown while Watkins added 54-yard touchdown reception of his own as part of his 155 all-purpose yards..

For Clemson - a team that plays at least 20 true or redshirt freshman on a weekly basis - Saturday's win didn't just end the school's conference title drought, it fired a warning shot across the bow of the Frank Beamer ACC Dynasty. The Hokies have appeared in five ACC Championship Games since the conference began holding the event in 2005. A Virginia Tech win would have been their fourth in five years, and third time defeating an opponent from earlier in the season.

But Saturday didn't feel like 2007, 2008, or 2010 for Virginia Tech fans. It felt like 2005. Florida State entered that inaugural championship on a three-game losing streak, and all the momentum was thought to be with the one-loss Hokies who had just arrived to crash the ACC's party. But after entering halftime tied, the Seminoles outscored Clemson 24-0 in the third quarter on the way to a decisive 27-22 victory. This time it was another longtime ACC member, Clemson, who started the second half with three straight scores on offense and three straight three-and-outs on defense. But the Tigers never let the Hokies get back into the game, and kept the pressure coming until the Oranges came raining down from the Orange-clad Tigers fans who stayed to savor every last moment.

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Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:33 pm
 

ACC Championship Game News & Notes

Posted by Chip Patterson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Greetings from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and tomorrow home of the 2011 ACC Championship Game. Both coaches met the media on Friday, and each time was given time for one last walk through before Saturday night's title game. The afternoon began with Commissioner John Swofford's announcement that Charlotte will continue to host the ACC Championship Game through the 2012 and 2013 season.

"The Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game has seen tremendous success in Charlotte, and we're pleased to announce they will serve as the host city for 2012 and 2013," Swofford said. "The City of Charlotte has done a terrific job over the past two years and we continue to be appreciative of the enthusiasm and support."

Both coaches echoed Swofford's sentiments, and Saturday night's sellout was mentioned frequently throughout the afternoon. The 2012 ACC Championship Game has been set for Saturday, Dec. 1, and the 2013 title game will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.

More news and notes from Friday:

CLEMSON

- Offensive lineman Phillip Price is listed as probable for Saturday, and head coach Dabo Swinney makes it sound like the senior left tackle will get a chance to earn his time on the field. Price started against South Carolina, but was pulled from the game after position coach Robbie Caldwell "didn't feel good about the way he was reacting."

"[Price] has come back this week and he's had a really good week, and he's gone full speed pass rush and inside and all that kind of stuff," Swinney explained on Friday. "I feel much better about him, but he's got to go and compete and play four quarters tomorrow night."

- Of course Dabo Swinney could not escape Friday's media availability without addressing his response to the alleged comments from Steve Spurrier. Having found out the comments were from a radio broadcaster, not Spurrier himself, Swinney changed his tone significantly.

"I heard today that [Spurrier's comments regarding Clemson] wasn't said, and that's great. It's awful convenient on Thursday. I know this, that if my media put something out that I said and if it was nationally perceived that I said it, I promise you I would correct it.

"I said that last night," Swinney concluded. "I don't know if [Spurrier] said it or not, but there hasn't been any rebuttal. But that's it on that. We'll talk about the ballgame."

- One of the key players in Saturday's game will be Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen. The redshirt junior is one of 19 Tigers to be playing in their second ACC Championship Game, and his presence in the passing game will be needed to keep the Virginia Tech defense spread out and honest.

"Dwayne is a matchup-problem for people. I mean, he's a guy that you've got to know where he is from a defensive standpoint. He's almost 6-foot-4, 255 pounds and can run and jump and handle the ball like a wideout."

VIRGINIA TECH

- Facing an opponent from earlier in the season is not new for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. In 2007 and 2008 the Hokies lost to Boston College in the regular season and then defeated the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech fans are hoping the trend will continue, but Beamer knows there are no guarantees of avenging the 23-3 home loss from earlier this season.

"I hope we're a better football team," Beamer said. "But again, you know, it's happened to us twice, but that's no sign its going to happen three times in a row. I think we've got to play well. I guarantee they've got the ability to be really good and have been really good at times and just got on the wrong side of that momentum deal."

- Virginia Tech looked much looser in their walk-thru than Clemson. Though that should not come as any surprise. Most of the Hokies' roster was right here in Bank of America Stadium last season preparing to take on Florida State. Clemson's approach and tone was much more serious, as Swinney and the staff are trying to refocus this young team after losing two in a row and three of their last four.

- PREGAME PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 28, Clemson 24

For more analysis on Saturday night's matchup, check out my Keys to the Game

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech vs Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Hokies can get pressure on Tajh Boyd and force turnovers. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four-game losing streak, and turnovers have been the glaring difference in the team's play. Clemson has turned the ball over 12 times in that four game stretch. Only 2-10 Maryland has turned it over more down the stretch of the regular season. Logan Thomas has gotten stronger as the season comes to a close, serving as the perfect dual-threat compliment to ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. The offense should be able to find success against Clemson's defense, so winning the ACC Championship will come down to Bud Foster's unit containing the likes of Boyd, Andre Ellington, and Sammy Watkins. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd has been hurrying throws because of "phantom pressure." If Virginia Tech can get real pressure on the sophomore quarterback, they might be able to force a game-changing turnover (or two).

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can establish the rushing attack early. One of the reasons Boyd has been feeling this "phantom pressure" has been a drop-off in Clemson's rushing production. Andre Ellington has been banged up, and just started to look healthy again in the loss to South Carolina. Freshmen Mike Bellamy and D.J. Howard have looked good in spurts, but neither have been able to hit the home-run play they relied on earlier in the season. Forcing Virginia Tech's secondary to commit a player to the run will create single coverage opportunities for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. But Clemson needs to get that running game going to avoid becoming one-dimensional down the stretch.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The ACC Rookie of the Year has been obviously limited by his shoulder injury, suffered in the Tigers' 31-28 win against Wake Forest Nov. 12. Watkins missed the NC State loss, and was held to just 39 yards on four catches against South Carolina. When Watkins was healthy his presence on the field was game-changing, but the freshman phenom was invisible for stretches of Saturday's loss to the Gamecocks. Tigers fans are hoping Watkins will be back in September/October form on Saturday, when he was averaging over seven catches and 100 yards per game.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech has answered an embarrassing home loss with an impressive win streak and wound up in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson was not as embarrassing as James Madison in 2010, but the effect was the same in regards to the outlook on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in that game, completing 15 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and an interception. But the bounce-back 38-35 win over Miami triggered the current ACC tear that has the Hokies back in Charlotte defending the title. Thomas bounced back completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns - including the game-winning score with 56 seconds remaining. Ever since then Virginia Tech has not been shaken from their path to the title game, including big road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday against Virginia.

The 38-0 shutout felt like a "final product" for Virginia Tech's season. While not every conference win came easily, such as escaping from Duke with a 14-10 victory thanks to three missed Blue Devils' field goals, every win has highlighted at least one impressive strength of the 2011 Virginia Tech squad. Saturday's victory against the surging Cavaliers displayed a suffocating defense that held Virginia 30 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. There was also David Wilson's 153 yards rushing, Thomas' three combined touchdowns, and enough "wow" plays from the Hokies wide receivers to keep any secondary honest against the run. With Clemson dropping three of their last four games in the regular season, it seems as though these teams are moving in opposite directions. How each team remembers their season will be decided when they face off for the ACC Championship under the lights next Saturday.

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

Since starting the season 8-0 and reaching the Top 5 in the BCS standings, things have slowly come undone for Clemson's dream season. Saturday's 34-13 loss against South Carolina exhibited more of the same problems from the recent weeks: inability to protect the quarterback, mental mistakes on defense, and costly turnovers. After lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard for most of the season, the Tigers have just two touchdowns in their last two games combined. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney said this loss was "the lowest of the lows" and he never expected that kind of performance.

But the challenge for Swinney and his staff is to find a way to turn around the Tigers before Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Clemson has had the luxury of being able to lose three of their last four games while still giving themselves the opportunity to play for their first conference title since 1991. Virginia Tech has won seven straight games since losing to Clemson at home earlier in the season, and the Hokies will have revenge on their mind in Charlotte. Swinney's young team has proven to be incredibly dangerous when they are playing smart, and filled with liabilities with they are not. Now there is a big week of preparation ahead for Clemson after another head-scratching loss.

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

After NC State's uninspired showing in a 14-10 loss at Boston College, things looked bleak for the Wolfpack's postseason hopes. Reaching bowl eligibility would require wins against Clemson and Maryland in the final two weeks of the season, with the Tigers leading the Atlantic Division and Maryland an annual thorn in NC State's side. They started the march by jumping out to a 24-3 lead against a stunned Clemson squad, using ferocious defensive pressure to force four turnovers and hang on for a 37-13 victory.

But the Top 10 upset would not be worth nothing without taking care of business against Maryland. Trailing 41-14 early in the third quarter, it looked as though Maryland would throw a wrench in NC State's postseason plans for the second year in a row. But the Wolfpack simply refused to end their season in that manner. The 42 unanswered points marked the biggest comeback in school history as Mike Glennon led the way with 306 yards passing and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Tom O'Brien has not taken NC State to consecutive postseasons since his arrival in Raleigh, and winning five of their final seven games has taken a lot of the heat off his seat.

LOSER: Randy Edsall

A mind-numbingly frustrating season filled with suspensions, transfers, and injuries ended in the worst way possible with NC State's 56-41 win over the Terps on Saturday. Maryland blowing a 41-14 third quarter lead to the Wolfpack left the first-year head coach shaking his head with few explanations after the game, even though there were plenty of questions.  The loss leaves Maryland with a 2-10 record, their second such finish in the last three years.

Reports have been flying for weeks that Edsall was losing (or had lost) the support of the locker room, and allowing the Wolfpack to mount their biggest comeback in school history showed very little fight left in the Terps. Edsall has the support of the administration, and acknowledges there have been some difficulties with the transition. But Saturday's embarrassment was the worst - although strangely appropriate - finish to a rocky 2011 season for Maryland.

WINNER: Al Golden

Al Golden has tackled, dodged, avoided, and yet also answered hundreds of questions regarding his future at Miami since August. It's not every day that a first-year coach gets asked so many questions about wanting to leave, but Golden's set of circumstances gave media members plenty of reasons to speculate. But despite an ongoing NCAA inquiry and a timely (or untimely) job opening at his alma mater, Al Golden is committed to Miami. Maybe more importantly - Miami is committed to Al Golden.

The school announced during Friday's 28-14 loss to Boston College that Golden had agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that would keep him at Miami until 2020. Golden's comments in the official release were similar to his explanations from the entire season: his family loves South Florida, he is working on building a program, and he believes in the support from the administration. So now what? Now Golden can stop answering questions about Penn State and if he wants to leave after taking a job with no knowledge of NCAA issues. Now Golden can start the grind necessary to build the program he wants. Now, he hits the recruiting trail.

The first-year Hurricanes coach has made claims of signing "30 new kids" in the upcoming recruiting class. Such a splash would be huge for the program, particularly considering the NCAA issues likely to come. But while the school has self-imposed a ban on the 2011 postseason, Golden has been assured there will be no self-imposed scholarship penalty in the near future. Without a postseason to plan for, now Golden hits the road to get his "30 kids."

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

Randy Shannon's 2008 recruiting class was considered one of the best in recent Hurricanes history. The class was ranked in the Top 5 nationally pretty much across the board, and highlighted by some of the top talent in the Miami area. On Saturday some of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, played their final game in a Miami uniform. Because of the self-imposed postseason penalty, that group finishes with a 29-22 record with no bowl wins in their time as a Hurricane. The class was supposed to bring Shannon the success that Coral Gables had not seen since the move to the ACC. Four years later, the Hurricanes have still yet to finish better than tied for second place in the Coastal Division.

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

The Florida State defense has received plenty of deserved praise for their dominating performances this season. But while the Seminoles entered the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally for total defense and scoring defense, they rank near the bottom of the ACC in interceptions gained. After picking off just nine passes in 11 games, Florida State picked off Florida four times in the 21-7 rivalry win. All three Seminole touchdowns came directly after Florida interceptions, with Terrance Parks 29 yard pick six sealing the win in Gainesville.

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

Jim Grobe deserves a lot of credit for turning around Wake Forest from a 1-7 team in conference play to ACC division contenders. The 6-6 finish is an improvement considering they were picked to finish last in the ACC again this year, but they did themselves no favors in the eyes of bowl committees with a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Senior Day. Wake Forest turned in an unimpressive effort against their SEC rivals in front of a meager announced attendance of 28,020. But the letdown against the Commodores also hurt Wake Forest's momentum heading into the postseason.

When competing with other teams in the conference for preferable bowl bids, losing four of your final five games is a fast way to make your team appear less attractive. Hats off to the Demon Deacons on their first postseason appearance since 2008, but they did themselves no favor on location with their finish.

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Posted on: November 26, 2011 6:50 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Virginia Tech 38, Virginia 0

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WON. The Hokies were put on upset alert against their in-state rivals, but another dominating 38-0 performance led to their eighth consecutive win in The Commonwealth Cup. With the victory Virginia Tech clinches the ACC Coastal Division and a spot in the ACC Championship Game, their fifth since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2005.

HOW VIRGINIA TECH WON: The Hokies' defense forced four Virginia turnovers and held the Cavaliers to just 30 yards rushing. With Virginia's offense neutralized, Logan Thomas and David Wilson were able to slowly grind away at the Cavaliers defense. Thomas completed 14 of 22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing touchdown to the stat line. Wilson delivered another stellar second half performance, wearing down Virginia with his 153 yards and two touchdowns. It was Wilson's 10th 100+ yard rushing game this season, tying an ACC record.

WHEN VIRGINIA TECH WON: Late in the second quarter, Virginia was driving after a Justin Myer missed field goal down 14-0. Michael Rocco completed three quick passes to move the ball down to the Virginia Tech 20 yard-line in the final minutes of the half. Virginia Tech had dominated most of the game, so cutting the deficit to 14-7 heading into the locker room could have drastically changed the momentum of the game. But Rocco was sacked 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and fumbled the ball as he went down. It was the second fumble of the first half, and Virginia never appeared to be within striking distance again.

WHAT VIRGINIA TECH WON: A second shot at Clemson. Logan Thomas' maturation into one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC really began after the 23-3 loss to Clemson in Blacksburg. Thomas has improved his accuracy and vision throughout the Hokies' seven-game win streak, and adding the second ground threat has helped Wilson's performance as well. The Tigers, on the other hand, have been reeling in recent weeks and look vulnerable for Virginia Tech vengeance.

WHAT VIRGINIA LOST: A shot at their biggest statement win since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004. The Cavaliers have not only been winless against their in-state rivals since ACC expansion, but the Hokies have owned most of the Coastal Division. Unseating Frank Beamer from the comfortable position of Coastal Division champion would be a huge win for Mike London. Still, there is plenty to proud of in Charlottesville as the second-year head coach will now prepare Virginia for their first bowl game since the 2007 season.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Senior wide receiver Danny Coale has been in competition for the starting punter position since spring practice. However, his only game action was a two-punt (62 yards) showing against Marshall earlier in the season. Coale took four of Virginia Tech's punts on Saturday, with dramatically improved results. The wide receiver averaged 47.5 yards per punt with a long of 52, while also serving as the return man for two punts.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:56 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech at Virginia

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They can jump out to a lead and continue to press for four quarters. The Hokies have struggled at times this season scoring late in games, allowing some conference opponents to climb back into games in the fourth quarter. Just ask Florida State how that worked out for them in the 14-13 loss on Saturday. You cannot let Virginia hang around in this game because they have demonstrated a tenacity and grittiness that makes them dangerous late in games. Virginia Tech needs to rise to the occasion and end this game early. If Logan Thomas and David Wilson have big games and are able to keep drives alive with third down conversions, even the Cavaliers' impressive run defense will wear down by the fourth quarter.

VIRGINIA WILL WIN IF: They win the battle up front and establish their bruising rushing attack. Virginia Tech is thin on both the offensive and defensive line because of injury, and Saturday is the opportunity for that physical style of play to shine on the biggest stage. Mike London's team has beat up conference opponents on their division title chase, and benefited from some hard running from Perry Jones and Kevin Parks. Florida State was able to limit both backs early, but the Hokies' rush defense has declined recently - giving up 477 yards on the ground in their last three contests. By comparison, the unit averaged only 84.6 yards in their first eight games.

X-FACTOR: The Rivalry. Virginia played a very big role in bringing Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004, and the Hokies have repaid the favor by winning every Commonwealth Cup showdown since their arrival. With Virginia riding a four game winning streak that includes wins over Miami and Florida State, the Cavaliers have all the confidence that this is the year to knock off their in-state rivals. At the same time, Virginia Tech senior safety Eddie Whitley mentioned this week that he's been getting texts from former players encouraging the Hokies to take care of business.

Not to mention, a berth to the ACC Championship Game is on the line in this "winner take all" battle for the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech could clinch their fifth berth in seven years. Virginia could have a shot at their first conference title since 1995. It is the first sellout in Charlottesville all season, and promises to be physical game for 60 minutes. In matchups this heated, the biggest X-Factor is "who wants it more."

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Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:18 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 11:22 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Virginia Tech 37, Georgia Tech 26

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WON. Thursday night's primetime showdown between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech had the feel of an elimination game. For the last six years, the winner of the annual ACC Coastal showdown has gone on to represent the division in the ACC Championship Game. The road has now been cleared for the Hokies, after pulling away with a 37-26 victory in Atlanta on Thursday.

HOW VIRGINIA TECH WON: In a game between opponents that know each other as well as the Hokies and Yellow Jackets do, sometimes it just comes down to execution. The Hokies converted on more than half of their third downs, and both of their huge fourth down attempts to keep scoring drives alive when the Yellow Jackets had them stopped.

Virginia Tech was led by quarterback Logan Thomas, who threw for 209 yards through the air and added 76 yards on the ground for a combined five touchdown performance. David Wilson added yet another impressive outing to his growing ACC Player of the Year resume, with 23 carries for 169 yards. Georgia Tech committed only two penalties, but none were more deciding than the 15 yard personal foul on Jeremiah Attaochu for throwing a punch after sacking Logan Thomas. If the sack stands, Georgia Tech likely heads into the fourth quarter with the lead. Instead the Hokies marched down the field and took a 27-26 lead before the end of the third on a Thomas touchdown run.

WHEN VIRGINIA TECH WON: After the aforementioned Logan Thomas go-ahead touchdown, the Yellow Jackets were stuffed on 4th and 1 from their own 31. Paul Johnson has a tendency to pull the trigger on fourth down, but Tevin Washington's failed sneak resulted in the rare "four and out." The Hokies used almost four minutes of fourth quarter clock getting those 31 yards, finally scoring a touchdown on a pass from Thomas to defensive end-turned-tight end Chris Drager to extend Virginia Tech's lead to 34-26.

WHAT VIRGINIA TECH WON: A clear road to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. With the Georgia Tech win, Virginia is the only team that can stand between the Hokies and their fifth trip to the conference title game in the last seven years. The Hokies still need to face North Carolina next week before their annual meeting with the in-state Cavaliers, but remain a game up heading into the weekend.

WHAT GEORGIA TECH LOST: After the thrilling upset of undefeated Clemson and a week off to get healthy, the Yellow Jackets are already eliminated from the ACC Coastal race. Much of the blame can be placed on the loss to Virginia earlier in the season, but Thursday night's home loss to the Hokies sealed their fate.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Both teams boast strong running games, but the quarterbacks did all the work around the goal line on Thursday night. Logan Thomas and Tevin Washington combined all five of the game's rushing touchdowns, including quarterback sneaks from 1, 2, even 11 (yes, it was a sneak that went 11 yards) yards out. It was crazy.

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Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:46 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:50 pm
 

Virginia Tech down LB for Orange Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Virginia Tech has been dealing with injuries all season on both sides of the ball.  Yet somehow, they have been able to step up and keep it from hindering the team on their current 11-game winning streak.  That kind of support and adjustment will be needed once again, with reports that the Hokies will likely have to face the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal without starting linebacker Lyndell Gibson.

Gibson left the ACC Championship Game with what was initially diagnosed as a "shoulder stinger."  Head coach Frank Beamer complimented his linebacking corps after the game for their ability to step right in and contribute defensively.  Unfortunately, tests later revealed that Gibson had broken his left shoulder blade, and will likely miss the Orange Bowl on January 3 in Miami.

If Gibson can't go against Andrew Luck and the Stanford offense, Beamer will likely turn to backup Tariq Edwards to once again replace him in the lineup.  Edwards has seen his playing time increase over the season, and played the entire second half of the title game victory against Florida State on Saturday.


 
 
 
 
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