CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Clemson broke open a tie game at halftime by scoring on its first four second-half possessions and knocked off the Hokies 38-10 in the ACC title game held Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 11-2 on the season – with both defeats coming to Clemson. The Tigers (10-3) won their first ACC championship since 1991 and clinched the ACC’s automatic spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
Tech now awaits its bowl destination. In all likelihood, the Hokies will be in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against an SEC opponent, with most of the speculation centering on Auburn.
“Clemson came in here and played great,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “For us, things just didn’t happen right. As soon as we’d get something going, we’d get a penalty … it just didn’t happen right.
“I’m disappointed for our players, but I don’t think one thing can take away from all the great things this team has accomplished throughout the season. We’ve hung in there and done some super things. We’re going to go to a good bowl, and we feel we’ve earned the right to go to a good bowl. We need to learn from it and play better, and I feel like we will.”
The Hokies, who saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, fell apart in what turned out to be a disastrous third quarter. The game was tied at 10 at halftime, but Tech went three-and-out on its first three possessions of the second half, and Clemson scored touchdowns in less than five minutes following all three of those possessions.
The first score came when an 88-yard drive ended on Tajh Boyd’s 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dewayne Allen that gave the Tigers a 17-10 lead with 10:45 left in the third quarter. Boyd then found receiver Sammy Watkins for a 53-yard strike, and the Tigers took a 24-10 lead with 8:02 left in the third quarter. The final Tiger touchdown in that stretch came on a 29-yard touchdown run by Andre Ellington for a 31-10 bulge with 6:21 left in the third.
Boyd’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter capped the scoring for Clemson and gave the Tigers a 38-10 lead.
“It got rolling for them,” Beamer said. “I don’t know. All of us have been through it. They had the momentum, they had field position and they got us.
“Defensively, I give their offense credit, but I don’t think we played well defensively. Part of it is personnel – [Jayron] Hosley went out early. But we’ve been playing like that. We’ve been playing without some guys in several ball games. We didn’t do a good job of stopping them, and they did a great job of mixing it up and they didn’t turn it over. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Clemson outgained Tech 210-51 in the third quarter alone. The Tigers finished with 457 yards in total offense for the game. In contrast, Tech finished with just 330, including a paltry 56 on the ground.
Tech quarterback Logan Thomas paced Tech’s attack, completing 22 of 44 for 274 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. But his fumble on Tech’s first possession of the game led to a Clemson touchdown, and the Hokies never got momentum completely going their way the rest of the game.
“Clemson did a great job of scoring points and scoring them quick,” Thomas said. “Twenty-one points in four minutes is hard to come out of. Give it to them. They played a great game offensively and defensively, and they deserved to win.”
D.J. Coles caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. But Tech tailback David Wilson never got going. The ACC’s player of the year finished with a season-low 32 yards rushing on 11 carries.
“We tried to get him going in the first half, and they did a good job of stopping us,” Beamer said. “Then you get into second-and-long situations and just the flow of the game … we wanted to get him involved in the second half and then the score, we got down quickly. It just never fit.”
The Hokies’ lone score came late in the first quarter. A five play, 77-yard drive ended when Thomas hit Coles for a 45-yard touchdown play. Cody Journell’s extra point tied the game at 7 with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. Journell’s field goal right before halftime accounted for the Hokies’ other points.
Boyd enjoyed a huge game for Clemson, completing 20 of 29 for 240 yards, with three touchdowns, and he also rushed for a touchdown. Ellington rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught seven passes for 92 yards.
Boyd was named the game’s most valuable player.
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