Virginia Tech (15)... 17 14 0 10 - 41 Clemson (22)......... 0 8 0 15 - 23 Scoring Summary: 1st Quarter 13:50 VT - Parker 32 yd INT return (Dunlevy) 06:11 VT - Dunlevy 32 yd FG 04:48 VT - Royal 82 yd punt return (Dunlevy) 2nd Quarter 07:16 CU - Buchholz 33 yd FG 06:59 VT - Harris 100 yd kickoff return (Dunlevy) 03:36 CU - Taylor sacked, safety 02:17 VT - Harper 21 yd pass from Taylor (Dunlevy) 00:07 CU - Buchholz 30 yd FG 4th Quarter 14:12 CU - Grisham 3 yd pass from Harper (Buchholz) 07:10 VT - Dunlevy 47 yd FG 04:29 CU - Kelly 18 yd pass from Harper (Buchholz) 00:50 VT - Ore 2 yd run (Dunlevy)
#15 Virginia Tech gave Clemson a healthy dose of Beamerball in the early stages of the game, then held on to beat the #22 Tigers 41-23 in Death Valley on Saturday night. The Hokies improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC with the win, while Clemson dropped to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.
This was a classic, old school victory for Virginia Tech. The Hokies scored two special teams touchdowns and one defensive touchdown, and led by as many as 26 points before coasting to the win.
Eddie Royal was one of the special teams stars for the Hokies. The senior wide receiver didn’t catch any passes, but he returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, and also set up a field goal with another great punt return. Royal actually returned a second punt for a touchdown, but it was called back because of an illegal block in the back.
Cornerback Macho Harris had some big hits in the passing game and had an interception, but his signature play was his 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown that put Tech up 24-3 in the second quarter. It was Harris’ second touchdown of the season. He also returned an interception for a touchdown against East Carolina.
Last season the Hokies received national acclaim for holding Clemson’s vaunted rushing attack to just 80 yards. They did even better than that this time around. Clemson totaled just nine yards on the ground on 23 carries. All-star tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for just 12 yards on 12 carries. Clemson’s dynamic duo didn’t get a lot of touches because the game got out of hand early, but when they did try to run it, the Hokies completely shut them down.
The Tigers had to be one-dimensional against the Hokies because they couldn’t run the ball, and they got down so early in the game. Quarterback Cullen Harper threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns, but he attempted 66 passes, a Clemson record. For the game he was 38-of-66 for 372 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
His first interception came on Clemson’s first drive of the game. Harper’s pass over the middle was deflected and intercepted by Tech’s senior free safety, D.J. Parker, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for the Hokies’ big victory.
The Hokies didn’t accomplish much offensively, and what they did accomplish was due to the play of true freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was 7-of-14 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown. He hooked up with Justin Harper for a 21 yard touchdown pass in the second quarterback that made the score 31-5.
However, Taylor did the most damage with his legs. He had 15 carries for 118 yards, with a long run of 53 yards. Branden Ore was limited to just 35 yards on 23 carries. The Hokies had just 219 yards of total offense, but it didn’t matter. Because of special teams and defense, they led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter. They later led 24-3 and 31-5, and took a 31-8 lead into halftime.
As usual, Tech’s defense was led by linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Hall had 11 tackle, with one tackle for loss. Adibi added 10 tackles and two tackles for loss. Nekos Brown added two sacks, while Chris Ellis had a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
As a team, the Hokies had 11 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Things were bad for Clemson from the opening snap. A holding call on their first play from scrimmage pushed them back to their own nine yard line, and they were behind the chains against Tech’s outstanding defense. Their second down play was a shovel pass to James Davis, who fumbled it, but recovered his own drop for a one yard gain.
On third down, quarterback Cullen Harper threw to Tyler Grisham down field, but the pass was a little high. Grisham deflected it in the air, where it was intercepted by D.J. Parker. Parker ran it back untouched for a 32 yard touchdown, and just like that the Hokies were up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Clemson’s offense went three-and-out on their next two possessions. Their third punt of the game, and Eddie Royal’s subsequent return, was a sign of things to come. Royal fielded the punt at his own 25, and returned it 33 yards, all the way to the Clemson 42. That gave Tech’s offense great field position.
The Hokies’ offense managed to move the ball into the field goal range. The big play was a 20 yard pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Josh Hyman to the Clemson 20. The Hokies moved it to the Clemson 14, but were stopped on third down. Jud Dunlevy came on for a 32 yard attempted, and nailed it. With 6:11 remaining in the first quarter, Tech led 10-0.
Clemson went three-and-out yet again on their next possession. Punter Jimmy Maners got off a huge kick, which Eddie Royal fielded at his own 18. Royal made the first man miss, then took cover behind his perfectly formed line of blockers and took it all the way down the right sideline for a touchdown. The Hokies led 17-0 with 4:48 left in the first quarter.
Both offenses remained stagnant for the remainder of the first quarter and the early stages of the second quarter. With just over nine minutes remaining in the half, the Tigers finally picked up their first first down of the game on a 14 yard completion to Aaron Kelly. That apparently woke up the Clemson offense, as they drove down the field and picked up a 33 yard field goal from Mark Buchholz. That made the score 17-3 with 7:16 left in the half.
However, that just provided an opportunity for Macho Harris to work his magic. The junior cornerback fielded the kickoff two yards in the endzone, brought it out and reversed his field, and took it the length of the field for a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Dunlevy’s extra point made it 24-3 Hokies with 6:59 left in the second quarter.
However, the fireworks weren’t over. Clemson later downed a punt at the Tech two yard line, perhaps their only special teams bright spot of the night. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was then caught in the end zone and sacked by Tiger defensive end Phillip Merling for a safety, giving this already strange game a strange score to match. The Hokies led 24-5, and still, there was more to come.
The Tigers had the ball and a first down at the Tech 42 yard line, and were trying to get back into the game before the half. However, the Hokies’ senior defensive end, Chris Ellis, changed that. Ellis flew in off the edge, sacked quarterback Cullen Harper and knocked the ball loose. The ball bounced back towards the line of scrimmage into a pile, and then bounced back to Ellis, who fell on it, giving the Tech offense the ball.
Starting at the Clemson 49, the Tech offense made the Tigers pay for their turnover. Tyrod Taylor ran for a six yard gain, and then hit Justin Harper for a six yard completion and a first down. Taylor later had a 14 yard scramble to the Clemson 21 for a first down. After that, he found Harper again, this time all alone in the back of the end zone for a 21 yard touchdown. With the extra point, Tech led 31-5 with 2:17 left in the second quarter.
Clemson was able to put together a drive before the end of the half and pick up a 30 yard field goal. At halftime, the Hokies led 31-8.
Believe it or not, the teams were scoreless in the third quarter. The Tigers tried to get back into the game with a drive that began in the third quarter, and ended with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Clemson finally scored a touchdown on an 87 yard drive. However, it took 4:58 off the clock, and the Tigers needed quick scores at that point. Cullen Harper found Tyler Grisham for a three yard touchdown with 14:12 left in the game, and the extra point made the score 31-15 Hokies.
The Tigers had a chance to score again on their next possession. They went for it on fourth down from the Tech 12. Harper’s pass was caught by C.J. Spiller in the back of the end zone, but he stepped out of bounds before the catch, then came back in and caught the pass, which is illegal. The Tigers had to turn the ball over on downs.
Then Tyrod Taylor iced the game with his legs. The true freshman quarterback had a 53 yard run down the right sideline to the Clemson 30. Tech’s drive stalled, but Jud Dunlevy came through with a 47 yard field goal to make the score 34-15 with 7:10 remaining. Dunlevy remains perfect on his field goal attempts this season.
Clemson didn’t quit, and drove for another touchdown to try and get back in the game. On third down from Tech’s 18 yard line, Cullen Harper went to Aaron Kelly in the left corner of the end zone. The pass was deflected, but Kelly came down with it for a touchdown. The two point conversion was successful, and the Hokies led 34-23 with 4:29 left in the game.
Clemson tried an onside kick, which was recovered by Xavier Adibi. Tech took over on the Clemson 42, and steadily drove down the field for a touchdown to end the game. Branden Ore punched it in from two yards out, putting Tech up 41-23 with 50 seconds remaining.
The Hokies return to action next Saturday against Duke. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised by Raycom/Lincoln Financial Sports. Check your local listings.
STATISTICS VT CU ---- ---- First downs 9 20 Rushed-yards 41-154 23-8 Passing yards 65 372 Sacked-yards lost 4-24 2-6 Return yards 278 142 Passes 7-14-0 38-67-2 Punts 8-46.4 7-48.0 Fumbles-lost 3-0 2-1 Penalties-yards 6-52 7-53 Time of possession 27:16 32:44 Att: 82,000 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING-Virginia Tech, Taylor 15-118 Ore 23-35, Lewis 3-1. CU, Davis 6-9, Spiller 6-3 Harper 11-(-4). PASSING-Virginia Tech, Taylor 7-14-65. CU, Harper 38-66-372-2. RECEIVING-Virginia Tech, Harper 3-33, Hyman 2-31, Morgan 1-4, Ore 1-(-3). CU, Kelly 11-174, Grisham 11-100, Spiller 6-29 Ashe 5-44, Harris 2-18, Davis 2-5, Linthicum 1-2.