- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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One of the bright spots for the Hokies in their 23-3 loss to Clemson this season was the standout defensive effort against true freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who was held to three catches for 38 yards in that game. Redshirt senior cornerback Cris Hill was tasked with defending Watkins for most of the game, and the veteran obviously had the edge.
"It wasn't like we had to pay a little more attention to him," safety Eddie Whitley said of Watkins. "We knew he was a dynamic player and he was going to make his plays when possible.
"It didn't matter who was on him," he said. "We just had to trust our technique and our coaches to put us in the right position to make plays."
The Hokies held Watkins to his lowest receiving total of the season in Week 5, as he entered that game averaging 108.3 yards and 92.3 yards after the catch per game. What the Hokies excelled at was minimizing Watkins' gains after the catch.
The question now is, can Virginia Tech do it again?
"Virginia Tech in particular, they have a unique style of defense with what they play, and they mix it up well with kind of conventional defense and their Robber coverage that they play, and I thought they did a good job of taking away some of the short-game stuff to Sammy, but he still made a couple of big plays, made a big play down the middle against them," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "But he's one of those guys where you just have to keep giving him at-bats, and sooner or later he's going to put the bat on it."
ESPN's Stats & Info department took a closer look at Watkins' production against Virginia Tech compared with how he fared during the rest of the season:
Despite his lack of production against Virginia Tech, Watkins has proven to be dangerous after the catch all season long. According to ESPN's Stats & Info, amongst AQ receivers in the BCS Top 25, only Tavon Austin of West Virginia has gained more receiving yards after the catch than Watkins. He enters Saturday's Dr Pepper ACC championship game with 666 yards after the catch on 72 receptions, and 61.7 percent of his 1,073 yards have come after the catch.
2dESPN Stats & Information
3dJared Shanker and Andrea Adelson