The last time the Virginia Tech Hokies won the ACC Coastal Division and played in the ACC Championship game was in 2011. Back then, the defending ACC Champion No. 5 Hokies faced a very familiar foe. The Clemson Tigers. During the previous meeting the Fighting Gobblers fell to Tajh Boyd and the Tigers, 10-38. The Hokies and the Tigers meet, once again, five years later at the same event. The Hokies look to retake the ACC Crown while the Tigers hope to defend and secure a place in the College Football Playoff.
The Hokies, wrapped in maroon, kicked off to the Tigers for the touchback. Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams took to the field and Watson immediately ran up the middle, testing the ability of the VT defense to halt rushing QBs. Clemson quickly put together a sustained drive, with back to back first down plays. They easily found themselves in the VT red zone less than three minutes into regulation. It did not take Watson long to earn his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. Clemson up, 0-7.
Evans and the Fighting Gobbler defense took the field, and he was immediately sacked. A quick shovel pass to Rogers resulted in minimal gain. One false start and one deep incompletion later and the Hokies posted a three and out for their first possession. Ludwig crushed one of his best punts of the season and the coverage was on point. The Hokies pinned Clemson at the Tiger 18. Adonis was called for pass interference on the first play, but then Clemson gifted the Hokies a false start. Clemson faced a 3rd and 3 before Edmunds was called for a questionable pass interference penalty. Watson kept the tempo up with an eight-yard run. Reynolds then penetrated the line and hit No. 9 for a loss. 3rd and 5 for Clemson. It was a non-issue for the Tigers and they easily converted. Soon after Watson hit Jordan Leggett for a 21-yard TD. Clemson, 0-14.
The Hokies returned to the field at their 23 with 5:51 left in the first quarter, and gained exactly one yard from a Rogers run. Evans' night got a little bit longer when he was sacked for the second time. In a wicked turn of events, Clemson defender, O’Daniel, was ejected for targeting after a helmet to helmet hit on Rogers. After an incomplete and a short run, the Hokies faced 3rd and long, again. Clemson brought the pressure and sacked Evans immediately. On the ensuing punt, Ludwig completed a pass on a fake punt, and things looked brighter… but, then it was called back for an ineligible player downfield. After further review it was determined that the play was valid and the Hokies found themselves in Clemson territory for the first time. The following play required Clemson to execute pass interference to stop Sam Rogers from completing a pass to Bucky Hodges! The Hokies were now threatening with 1st and 10 at the Clemson 27. An Evans and Phillips run later the Hokies faced 3rd and 4. Evans hit Ford, and the Hokies found themselves first and goal at the Clemson one. After almost making it off an Evans run the Hokies went to McMillian who punched it in for the score. 7-14, Clemson.
The Tigers started their next drive off strong with a nine-yard pass play before C.J. Fuller ripped off a 27 yard run. The following Watson pass to Leggett was incomplete thanks to maximum effort by Greg Stroman, but Leggett was down on the field to close the first quarter.
To open the second period Spiller was stood up by the Hokies for no gain. The Hokies brought massive pressure against Watson, but another third down pass interference kept the Clemson drive alive. Leggett continued to be a serious problem for the Hokies as he scored a touchdown when Clemson faced 3rd and 7. Clemson extended their lead, 7-21. Andrew Murphy brought it just across the twenty for the Hokies. The first play was an incomplete pass to Ford. The Hokies stuck to the air and Evans hit Phillips for six. VT went back to Cam, with a screen, first down Hokies. Clemson wasn’t having it and Evans was overwhelmed by a Clemson blitz. On the next play, Phillips was also met in the backfield, and the Hokies faced 3rd and 14. Evans hit Phillips over the middle for short yardage before Cam was evaporated, and the Hokies were forced to punt.
The Hokie defense answered and pushed Clemson back two yards, before finally sacking Deshaun Watson. Clemson was finally dealt a third and long. But, it didn’t really matter because the Hokies suffered a fourth pass interference call on third down. Afterward, Clemson again faced a third down, but this time the Hokies held and forced Clemson to punt for the first time. Hokies fair caught at their 30-yard line. Ford somehow torched his coverage and Evans demonstrated his arm strength. It cost Clemson a 53-yard pass play to Isaiah Ford. The Hokies again found themselves in the Clemson red zone. A few plays later and Evans found his ninth rushing touchdown of the season. Hokies close, 14-21.
Inside of three minutes the Tigers converted a first down and then Watson almost threw an interception. Williams was stopped behind the line of scrimmage, and Clemson faced 3rd and 11. The Hokies brought the pressure and Watson was forced to throw the ball away. C.J. Carroll made a fantastic catch of the ensuing punt, but offsetting penalties resulted in a second punt being required. The second time around Carroll decided to make things interesting and muff, but he immediately recovered. The Hokies quickly found their old friend, 3rd and long, and worked to run the clock down with a Rogers run. At the end of the half the Hokies trail by only one score, 14-21.
|Completion - Attempts||14-19||10-15|
|Avg Yards Per Pass||6.2||8.0|
|Avg Yards Per Rush||4.3||1.6|
|Time of Possession||16:51||12:49|