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Offense without Thomas Jones is like a sandwich with no bread

Tommy Bowden inherited a rag-tag bunch of scrubs this year, otherwise known as the Clemson football team. But in the process, Bowden gave the rest of America a lesson in "How to Defeat the 1999 Virginia Football Team," orchestrating a 33-14 upset Saturday.

Now this plan didn't have as many elements as one of the flag football-esque pass plays Florida State ran against Georgia Tech. Nor was it as encyclopedic as Chris Palmer's play book for the Cleveland Browns. No, this plan revolved around one very important thing: stopping Thomas Jones.

"Jones had gained over 100 yards against us in the last two games," Bowden said following the win. "I thought if we could get on the board, we could take them out of their element."

And he was right. Clemson's ability to score against a depleted secondary and nonexistent pass rush, combined with Virginia turnovers on offense, gave the Tigers a 20-0 lead at the half.

All this time, ACC opponents and football reporters have been speculating on how to set up their defense to stop Jones. Bowden showed everyone they had it all wrong. You don't stop Jones with defense, you stop him with offense.

In the first half, Jones carried the ball 19 times. In the second half, Jones carried the ball four times and just once -- once -- in the fourth quarter.

Instead, Virginia went to a shotgun, multi-receiver offense, turning Jones into another wideout who just happened to come out of the backfield on every play. It worked to a degree, and the Cavs scored two touchdowns. But as Dan Ellis said after the game, "we can't win games if Thomas doesn't carry the ball."

After the game, Welsh said he didn't think he abandoned the run too quickly and according to the scoreboard, he didn't. But then again, by employing an all-out pass assault, Virginia abandons the best asset of its best offensive player.

Now I'm not saying the Cavs should run Jones on every play. But, as everyone and his brother knows by now, how Jones plays determines how the Virginia offense performs.

I'm saying that the Cavs should exploit that very obvious fact.

Instead of rolling Dan Ellis out on pass plays, a dubious choice as we've learned after two weeks, Virgina should work on the play action game and incorporate it into the passing attack. Jones has shown he can gobble up the yards on first downs. But generally, when Virginia runs on the first two downs, the latter play ends up being stuffed more often than not. When that happens, even Dick Vitale could tell you the Cavs will be passing on third down.

Saturday Clemson took more risks offensively than Virginia. While that wasn't the only reason behind the Tigers' victory, it kept the Cavalier defense guessing.

If Virginia gambled more offensively, it might take some of the load off a defense that struggled in Death Valley. Such gambles might prove imperative if Travis Griffith, Dwayne Stukes and Antwan Harris stay on the injured list with Monsanto Pope.

Whether it's a decision to push the players harder in practice or shift to a different defensive alignment, Virginia needs to find a way to keep points on the board, and keep Jones in the game.

Because if Clemson jumped out to a 33-0 lead with Brandon Streeter, imagine what Brigham Young will do with Kevin Feterik under center.


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