No. 5 Virginia Tech stung by No. 21 Clemson 38-10
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Virginia Tech running back David Wilson didn’t play like himself and that meant the fifth-ranked Hokies weren’t nearly the team they’d been much of the season.
Wilson, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, was held to 32 yards in No. 21 Clemson’s 38-10 victory over the Hokies in the league championship game on Saturday night.
Wilson was the backbone of the Hokies charge to the ACC’s Coastal Division title. He had run for 1,595 yards, gaining 100-or-more yards in 10 games this season, including the Hokies’ 23-3 loss to Clemson back on Oct. 1. But this time, Wilson was bottled up early and felt he never got the chance to bail out his team.
“Part of the reason we stopped running the ball is because I guess the coaches thought we were unsuccessful when we did try,” Wilson said. “But at the same time, I mean, you have got to get your guys going. You offense line has got to get moving and get your running back in the flow of the game when you see that happening.”
Clemson (10-3) made sure that didn’t happen as it won the ACC crown for the first time since 1991. Quarterback Tajh Boyd passed for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth and the Tigers bounced back from back-to-back disappointments at North Carolina State (37-13) and at South Carolina (34-13) the past two weeks.
Andre Ellington, who ran for 125 yards, raced 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 31-10 lead. Boyd put the game away early in the fourth quarter on a quarterback sneak.
“Our team, I could sense the confidence growing,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I told them if you just put it together on offense, defense and special teams, it won’t be close, I don’t care who we play.”
Virginia Tech (11-2) sure looked like it everything going for it at Bank of America Stadium. The Hokies had won three of the previous four ACC titles and had won seven straight since its earlier loss to Clemson.
Right away, the Tigers defense showed its teeth, forcing a Logan Thomas fumble on Virginia Tech’s opening play that led to the Tigers first touchdown. Things went downhill fast in the third quarter when the Hokies were outgained by Clemson, 210 yards to 51.
“We just weren’t what we were good at doing,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “And I think that’s got to enter into it.”
Similar to the first matchup, the Hokies could get nothing going against a stingy Tigers defense, which knocked away nine passes.
Late in the game, down 28 points, Thomas threw into the end zone and was picked off by Bashaun Breeland, who returned it 64 yards to set off a wild celebration. Clemson fans, sitting behind the team’s bench, began bombarding the field with oranges.
It was one of those nights for the Hokies, who haven’t had too many of them since joining the ACC seven years ago.
Even when something went well for the Hokies, it quickly backfired.
After falling behind by 21, Jarrett Boykin hauled in a 29-yard pass from Thomas deep in Clemson territory. But Boykin was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when the spiked the ball, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Four plays later, the Hokies turned it over on downs.
Thomas’ fumble proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come.
On their first offensive play of the game, Tigers linebacker Stephone Anthony jarred the ball loose from Thomas on a keeper and defensive end Andre Branch recovered at Virginia Tech 25.
It was Clemson’s first takeaway in its last four games.
The Tigers capitalized three plays later on when Allen hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Boyd.
“Clemson did a great job scoring them quick,” Thomas said. “Like they said earlier, to win one in four minutes is hard to come out of.”
Wilson was thinking the team would keep calling his number. That never happened.
“I never got to get in a rhythm,” Wilson said. “My carries were too far and in between. They were blitzing a lot and we were running straight into their blitzes.”
The Hokies were also stung with nine penalties, something that left Beamer shaking his head. “It was a game that just didn’t fit up right,” the coach said.