Hokies' rally comes up short in ACC title game loss to Clemson

1234F
(3) Clemson (12-1) 14714742
(19) Virginia Tech (9-4) 7771435
  • Orlando, Fla. - 50,628
  • Passing: Jerod Evans 264 yds
  • Rushing: Jerod Evans 46 yds
  • Receiving: Cam Phillips 92 yds

ORLANDO, Fla. – Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans accounted for 310 yards and three touchdowns, but Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson accounted for five touchdowns and led the Tigers to a 42-35 victory over the Hokies in the ACC Championship Game played Saturday night at Camping World Stadium.

With the loss, the Hokies fell to 9-4 overall on the season. Tech fell to 3-3 in ACC championship games. Clemson moved to 12-1 overall and all but cinched its spot as one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

“I’m awfully proud of our kids,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “They showed up here to win the ball game. It’s a somber locker room because of that, because they didn’t come just to play a close game or do anything other than win a ball game.

“Obviously, we came up a little short, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. The kids poured the heart and soul into this, and learned some life lessons from this endeavor, but I’m awfully proud in the way they believed and the way they prepared and ultimately how they played.”

The Hokies trailed the Tigers 35-14 late in the third quarter, but responded by scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Cam Phillips pulled Tech to within 42-35 with 5:43 remaining.

Tech held Clemson to three-and-out on its next possession and got the ball back with 4:03 to go. The Hokies drove to the Clemson 23, but on third-and-6, Evans was held to no gain, setting up a fourth-down situation in the Hokies were forced to go for it.

Evans dropped back to pass on the play and was hit just as he was trying to deliver a pass to Bucky Hodges. The Tigers intercepted the pass, and then ran out the clock to seal the win.

Evans completed 21 of 35 for 264 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. He also rushed for 46 yards and two scores.

Watson, the game’s MVP, threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 85 yards and two scores. Clemson out-gained the Hokies 470-386.

BIG PLAYS

• Evans’ 45-yard pass to Sam Rogers ultimately led to Evans’ 26-yard touchdown pass to Phillips with 5:43 left in the game. That touchdown cut the Clemson lead to 42-35.

• Evans’ 10-yard pass to Phillips on third-and-7 early in the fourth quarter ultimately led to Evans’ 5-yard touchdown run that pulled the Hokies to within seven, 35-28, with 11:35 remaining.

• Hodges hauled in a 42-yard pass toward the end of the third quarter. That play led to the Hokies scoring when Travon McMillian scored on a 27-yard run that cut the Clemson lead to 35-21 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.

• The Hokies scored the final touchdown of the first half on an 11-yard run by Evans. But the big play came on the first play of the drive when Evans completed a 53-yard pass to Isaiah Ford – Ford’s longest reception of the season.

• Tech was flagged for pass interference on four occasions in the first half, but the toughest call came against Edmunds on a pass that appeared to be well over the head of the receiver – thus uncatchable. The play occurred on third-and-10, giving the Tigers a first down. Six plays later, Watson threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett that gave the Tigers a 21-7 lead.

• A fake punt led to Virginia Tech’s first touchdown, as Mitchell Ludwig threw a pass to Terrell Edmunds, and Edmunds ran 20 yards for a first down on fourth-and-8. Five plays later, Travon McMillian scored on a 1-yard run.

GAME NOTES

• Evans added a couple of more records to his ever-growing list. His 264 passing yards give him 3,303 passing yards on the season, enabling to break Don Strock’s record of 3,243 passing yards set in 1972.

Also, Evans’ 21 carries give him 184 carries on the season – the most ever by a Tech quarterback. Logan Thomas held the previous mark of 174 carries set in 2012.

• Ford’s 53-yard reception enabled him to become the school’s all-time leader in career receiving yardage. Jarrett Boykin (2008-11) held the previous mark of 2,884 yards. Ford now has 2,911 receiving yards in his career.

• Phillips’ career-high 12 receptions gave him 70 on the season – a number that ranks third on Tech’s single-season list. Ford set the mark a year ago with 75 catches, and he holds the team lead this season with 73.

• Phillips now has 159 career receptions. That number ranks fourth on Tech’s all-time list behind Ford, Boykin and Danny Coale.

• The Hokies’ 284 passing yards enabled them to break the school’s single-season record of 3,348 set in 1972. Tech now has 3,417 passing yards on the season.

• The Hokies’ 386 yards of total offense enabled them to break the school’s single-season record of 5,782 yards set in 2011. Tech now has 5,821 yards of offense this season.

• Virginia Tech has scored in 282 straight games – a number that is the sixth-longest active streak among FBS schools and tied for the eighth-longest streak in NCAA FBS history.

UP NEXT

The Hokies should find out Sunday their bowl destination. Potential landing spots include the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @vthokiefootball Instagram

HokieSports Shop