Clemson endured an a hot start from Hokies quarterback Brandon Burmeister and cold temperatures to come out of Blacksburg with a win and lock up a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the sixth straight season. The Tigers defense did most of the heavy lifting, forcing three turnovers and limiting Virginia Tech to 2.9 yards/carry in the 45-10 victory, Saturday night. Neither team filled up the offensive stat sheet, but Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) was able to avoid crippling mistakes long enough to find its rhythm and put up 433 yards. It was more than enough as the defensive staff again made brilliant halftime adjustments, holding the Hokies scoreless after the break.
With his 33rd win, Trevor Lawrence surpasses Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson and Rodney Williams for most wins by a starting quarterback in school history. Lawrence set another mark in the third quarter with his 65-yard touchdown strike to Cornell Powell. It was Lawrence’s 18th career touchdown pass of 50 or more yards, breaking a record he had held jointly with Boyd.
The offensive notes aren’t all glowing, however. Lawrence’s overall numbers were mediocre (12 of 22 for 195 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.) by his high standards and Travis Etienne (16 carries for 68 yards) failed to eclipse 100 yards for the sixth straight week. But much of that can be attributed to the near-freezing temperatures and the Hokies game plan. It was apparent head coach Justin Fuente planned to limit the Tigers possessions, holding the ball for 19:53 of the first half. Clemson ran just 52 plays in the game.
On the injury front, head coach Dabo Swinney said in his postgame interview that he believes linebacker Jake Venables suffered a broken arm during the game. Swinney also gave updates on linebacker James Skalski and cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr., “Skalski just felt sore. It was kind of precautionary …. Booth was in the stadium and dressed but we opted not to play him. He’s got a thigh bruise from practice on Tuesday.”
Clemson, no. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will now turn its attention to capturing a sixth straight ACC title. The Irish and Tigers will each have an off week to prepare for the rematch on Dec. 19th in Charlotte.
Postgame reaction from Blacksburg, Va.: