No. 2 Clemson Forces Three Turnovers in 31-17 Win Over No. 12 Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech football
Clemson’s defense smothered Virginia Tech on Saturday, forcing three turnovers en route to a 31-17 win in prime time. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

BLACKSBURG, Va. — In a matchup of ACC heavyweights, No. 2 Clemson flexed their championship muscles in a 31-17 win over No. 12 Virginia Tech inside Lane Stadium.

“First of all, I just want to commend the Hokie nation. I’m sorry. I wish we would have played better,” said Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. “We played a really good opponent today that highlights mistakes really quickly. But, I thought the show that Virginia Tech put on for the nation to see was absolutely fantastic.”

The show Virginia Tech’s football team put on was not fantastic. Virginia Tech’s offense never found a rhythm on Saturday night, and made too many mistakes vs. a suffocating Clemson defense. The Hokies committed three turnovers, resulting in 14 points for Clemson. Josh Jackson finished the night 29-44 for 251 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. Travon McMillian lost a fumble in the third quarter, and the Hokies averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. The Hokies’ offense mustered just 342 total yards and were just 4-15 on third down.

After the game, Fuente said that Clemson’s defense played dramatically different than they have in the past.

“They played us differently than they’ve played before,” Fuente said. “They were usually an aggressive, attacking defense. They did not do that today. They played more 50-defense (five defensive linemen, two linebackers), more four-techniques than they had ever shown, dropping more guys. But we knew that we would still have to get the ball out quick, and run some screens, some misdirection, that sort of stuff. We knew that sledding was going to be difficult, no matter what they lined up.”

Cam Phillips, who made seven receptions for 74 yards, said that Clemson kept Tech guessing with their defensive schemes.

“I give credit to those guys,” Phillips said. “They did a great job mixing up looks, throwing a lot of different stuff at us… Against those guys, you’ve got to get a drive started and we couldn’t do that, which resulted in our defense on the field a little bit longer.”

The Hokies clearly designed their offensive gameplan to slow down Clemson’s pass rush. Virginia Tech ran a bevy of screens to running backs and wide receivers, quick passing plays and runs, in hopes to avoid taking sacks. Even though Clemson only had three sacks, Virginia Tech couldn’t move the ball downfield consistently vs. the Tigers.

“We did not want (Jackson) back there holding the ball, and I think that’s pretty much everybody’s plan when they play them,” Fuente said.

Virginia Tech’s defense only allowed 24 points, but struggled to stop Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant. Bryant made plays as a passer and runner, finishing with 280 all-purpose yards and one passing touchdown. Running back Tavien Feaster scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air.

Tavien Feaster
Clemson running back Tavien Feaster (28) finished the night with 92 total yards and two touchdowns. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Feaster’s first touchdown came on a busted coverage and his second came after McMillian’s third quarter fumble. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said that those two offensive series for Clemson were the difference in the game.

“We didn’t execute a couple scheme things, technique things on that drive that were disappointing,” Foster said of the drive after the turnover. “I thought that drive and obviously the big play, which was a busted coverage, those were two critical series in the game.”

The Hokies’ defense had hoped to contain Bryant in the pocket, but struggled to do so, especially in the first half. Bryant finished the night with 94 rushing yards, 65 of which came before halftime.

“He’s just a bigger guy,” said Tim Settle, who made six tackles and one sack. “I think we really wanted to whack-tackle him, instead of just tackling him, because he’s a quarterback. He’s real athletic.”

“I think he was pretty good in space, making guys miss,” said Andrew Motuapuaka. “He was breaking out of tackles, but overall he’s a good player with the ball in his hands.”

The first half was a struggle for Virginia Tech, on both sides of the ball. The Hokies’ offense didn’t earn a first down until their fourth drive of the game, and racked up just 149 total yards of offense in the first half. Virginia Tech had a chance to score right before halftime, but Joey Slye missed a 45-yard attempt.

Defensively, Virginia Tech got beat by a couple big plays. Clemson’s Feaster was left open in the flat on a busted coverage, and the sophomore sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown. Clemson added another touchdown late in the first half, after Bryant engineered a 6-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a CJ Fuller touchdown. The Tigers took a commanding 17-3 lead into half time.

Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles continued in the third quarter. The first drive ended in a Travon McMillian fumble, the second ended on failed fourth down attempt and the third failed on a fake field goal. Tech would come away with zero points in the third quarter, and trailed 24-3 heading into the fourth.

The Hokies generated a little momentum early in the fourth quarter, only to give it right back. After a 43-yard punt return from Greg Stroman to the Clemson two yard line, Virginia Tech scored their first touchdown on the night. Sean Savoy took a jet sweep to the left, making it 24-10 with 14:00 left to play.

Tech then forced a punt. On the ensuing drive, Jackson threw a screen to Henri Murphy, who bobbled it and lost sight of it. The ball fell into the hands of Dorian O’ Daniel, who returned the interception 22 yards for the score, effectively ending any hope of a Virginia Tech comeback.

Virginia Tech football
Josh Jackson came into Saturday’s game with just one turnover, but turned it over twice vs. Clemson, including a pick-six. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

“I did like the way our guys battled,” Fuente said. “I thought we were competitive, I thought our guys were competitive. It wasn’t always good, it wasn’t always pretty, but that was a group of men that were wearing maroon and orange out there competing their tails off. And we weren’t good enough. Our challenge is next week, the game will be a conference game, and we’ve got to get ready to go.”

“I thought our kids fought to the very end,” Foster said. “We gave up a couple of cheap scores on our end, and the pick-six, that ends up being the difference in the football game.”

Now, Virginia Tech has to pick up the pieces and move on. The Hokies are now 4-1 on the season, and will try to earn their first ACC win at Boston College next week. After a loss like this, the Hokies know there is plenty of room for growth.

“I hope we can build from it,” Foster said. “These guys are a bunch of great athletes, all over the place. There’s some things we can obviously learn from, and we will.”

— box score —

42 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I thought not getting 3rd and 1 on the first series or second series was key. The first punt was a big mistake as well.

    The fumble was a killer, but that happens. Int’s were late in the game.

    We’re a good team.

  2. Here is something positive. Both interceptions were heroic more than bad decisions. How fantastic is it that we have a rFrosh QB and he is playing really great. We will have a chance to win every game from here on out. If we improve, and Clemson suffers some attrition, perhaps we play them closer.

  3. As noted..cannot and have not stopped a running QB on a decent team, that I can remember..and the play calling was something to behold..Add in the fact that its another less than stellar performance on
    a national stage and we got served up another dose of Beamer Ball in its last years. Clemson is very good but we are better than displayed. The stage seemed to have swallowed up the coaching staff as badly as the team.. Should get better.

    1. I was at the game – perhaps you were too, but at the game I just felt that their D really, really stifled us in the first quarter, then our D got strung out, somewhat tired out. It felt like we were well-coached, just out manned, which led to mistakes. Not like GT, where it felt like mistakes led to the loss. I think we are pretty good, just lacking a couple of playmakers.

      Go Hokies!

      1. well said, Sir. well-coached and outmanned; But this Hokies team has a chance to be great (which is crazy because the team is young on offense and that speaks to good coaches).

  4. Clemson simply has better players across the board. Our defensive backs looked like they were wearing concrete shoes most of the evening. The defense took bad angles and were left holding air on multiple big plays. The Coaches can’t do the blocking and tackling but they do a good job with the players they have.

  5. It’s a loss but not the end of the world and the sun still came up this morning! There we’re simply too many mistakes to be able to beat a team with the talent, experience, and depth Clemson has!

    I don’t post much, but read a lot and many of you posted the same recipie for a win and success against Clemson! Play near prefect game while Clemson played or was forced to play a less than perfect game. Well that didn’t happen and I am no football guru by any stretch but I do know enough that when you play a team of this caliber, you can’t have two interceptions, one of which was a pick six, a fumble after your defense just got a stop coming out after halftime, and you can’t keep missing field goals in games that could be the difference and that use to be automatic from the distances being missed now!

    This is still a very young team especially on offense with virtually no depth at many key positions as well as our defense DL. Anyone who doesn’t see the drop off on our DL when the back ups come in just ain’t paying attention! This team has some talent but it is young and needs to develope and get more experience as well as some of our defensive backups!

    I personally don’t see any easy games the rest of the season and believe every game is going to be a dog fight unlike some saying teams like GT and Miami are our only concerns! We are going to get everyone’s best shot and we will need to play solid football in every game and not turn the ball over and start making field goals that a kicker with his experience should be making! If it’s a hold issue, then where supposed to have one of the best special teams coach in the land and he needs to get this fixed. I don’t see many easy games as long as we can’t play better than we did Saturday on all fronts! Learn from this and use it to coach us up to be better next time out! If anyone thinks Boston College will be easy after we beat them down last year is just not being realistic. Until this team grows up some more and players start stepping up, especially our young receivers and backups on the DL and producing and breakout we will be in for a fight in every game this old man believes. If you read my posts, I try to keep things in perspective and positive instead of trashing our defensive coordinator like someone did above and blaming him for the loss LOL. Go back and see how many points Alabama and Ohio State gave up to these guys with their SEC and Big 10 defenses and 4 and 5 star talent! If we don’t have three turnovers and one returned for a pic six, that game could have, should have been different and not just saying that because Fuente just said that on Virginia Tech today show with Mike Burhop! If I spelled your last name wrong Mike a apologize sir! Go Hokies

  6. Losing is one thing. What got me was, again, just like the game last year, getting off to a poor start, and playing catch up all game.

    We are just not yet able to force our will on the best.

  7. Coach JF has to do something to cure these real slow starts. Not being so conservative with play calling at the start of the game might help. Nothing crazy, just trust your quarterback and other players to be aggressive.

  8. It is really interesting to see how things get described. At twice the fumble is labeled “McMillian’s fumble”. It will get tuck in people’s consciousness. But nothing is said about Jackson’s interceptions or Murphy’s issue. Those are not labeled by name. I am more so just commenting how the use of language and identifiers happens and that becomes what people think.

    1. To be fair, I explicitly stated Jackson threw 2 INTs and explained why one of them was Henri Murphy’s fault.

    2. I saw 34 make some great blocks last night in pass protection, one in particular on a blitzing linebacker allowing for a long completion to Cam.

      1. I saw some very poor blocks thrown on running plays by those same guys. I am glad you noticed some positives. Blocking in the open field is very technical so hope we get those things fixed.

  9. As many people have said the play calling was questionable at best. Clemson’s front 4 got pressure so they didn’t need to blitz & as a result nothing was open down field. D did a decent job all things considered. Can’t turnover the ball against an elite team. I hopeful we can close the talent gap with a couple of good recruiting classes the next 2 yrs.

  10. We held the national champs to under 350 yards of total offense…. not sure how you can put this on our defense. What I saw was more on our recruiting lapse for a few years.

    1. yup. dabo has had 10 years to rebuild clemson, justin is only in his 2nd year. it takes a few years to right the ship. the last few years of recruiting under frank were pretty rough. things are on the upswing but it just takes some time.

  11. Disappointed but not surprised. Will Stewart’s article on Monday and Clemson history lesson was spot on. As Will pointed out, Clemson has scored 31-42-38-39-23 points in their 5 straight wins over VT. Ouch! Bud and his defense cannot scheme the Clemson program, and I hate it when Bud says it was 2 plays that were the difference in the game. Once again, we get burned by an athletic QB that can run. Clemson will likely be in the CFP once again, and VT can have a good year. But if we were to play them again in Charlotte, please have someone else plan the defense besides Bud. I’m tired of watching Clemson take his defenses to the woodshed.

    1. Blah Blah Blah…oh yes – the pick 6 and missed FG were Bud’s D…Hmm its a 24-20 game with out those…give it a rest.

      1. Really you think about if we make the other fg we don’t run that crap fake and it is 24-23 (and well, we go for 2 instead of extra point and it is either 24-24 or 24-22)

    2. We played the number 2 team in the country and they are the number 2 team in the country. We got beat so deal with it, don’t lay all this on Bud. How many years have we sat and watched an offence leave Bud Foster’s defense on the field way too long.

    3. Who do you suggest help our defense? Nick Saban? But wait, didn’t Clemson score 35 points against his defense in National Championship? Our defense will do better when we get some more help from our offensive. I’m encouraged, we have an excellent group of coaches and are on our way back to having a top 10 football program. And we are doing it the right way!

    4. Let’s be honest, IF you have to pick someone at fault, which was actually two misses in coverage, a fumble, two picks, and terrible running and O line push, it’s NOT the defense.

      We have young receivers, a Rs F QB, a questionable running game, and a struggling FG unit. All in all, we played pretty well. BC is next week. And, hey, if we win a few more, there’s another shot…

  12. Clemson is a good team But our the first half play calling stunk. Up the middle no gain and short out route passes no gain.
    Sorry no sugar coating, just being honest.

    1. Agree – I was disappointed we did not hit slants and stretch the field vertically some early on…and the 4rth and 1 after a timeout in 3rd was the first time I can recall coming out of a TO with the Fu-fense and having a really bad play…we should have checked out of that play – it was DOA.

  13. The good news is that we really only play two decent teams the rest of the year, GT and UM. We can learn from this and go undefeated though the rest of the ref season.

    1. Agree. Move on. The most important game is the next one. Btw, that TD pass to Foester was a great design. There was no chance ANY defense in the bounty was going to stop that play.

  14. We shouldn’t get too low about this loss. It’s a long season and we won’t face a better team than we saw tonight

    1. Exactly. As bad as it looked at times to know that without that pick 6 and the fumble we might have cut this thing to a 7 point game means we are getting closer to closing the gap between us and them. Slye has just got to be better, looked like a screwed up hold but man, he’s gotta make more kicks.

      1. Due to mishandle of snap, the hold was placed down off line and late, so kicker did not have time to adjust his final step and the ball ended up too far outside of his swing arc. I knew it would be pushed as soon as I saw the hold. I wonder if holds have affected other pushed kicks. This is the first that the cause was obvious.

        1. The holder got the ball down and upright in time. Slye just pushed it. His miss tends to be a push. It’s most likely an alignment issue or not getting thru the ball because he has had 4 kicks sail less than 3 feet wide of the right upright.

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