No. 3 Clemson Pulls Away from Virginia Tech, 45-10

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Khalil Herbert Virginia Tech
Khalil Herbert had 96 yards rushing and went over 1,000 yards for the season, but it wasn’t nearly enough, as No. 3 Clemson trounced Virginia Tech 45-10. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

Blacksburg, VA — There’s a reason Clemson is No. 3 in the country and a major contender in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers are big, fast, strong, and physical with an uber-talented quarterback.

In order to beat a complete team like Clemson, the opponent needs to play a nearly flawless game. On Saturday night from Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech was competitive early, slowing the tempo down and even controlling time of possession 19:53 to 10:07 in the first half. However, the Hokies were far from perfect, falling 45-10 to the Tigers in a game that got out of hand late.

“Obviously our plan was to try to keep our defense off the field and try to hold the ball as long as humanly possible,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “That didn’t mean going into the game that we couldn’t or wouldn’t try to throw the ball, it just meant we were trying to limit the number of possessions. When you play it like that, you have a chance for it to go a bunch of different ways. I thought that was the best chance for us to win. I still believe that.”

Here are the five plays or sequences that changed the complexion of the game.

Brock Hoffman’s Personal Foul

Through the first quarter of the game, Virginia Tech held its own and even led the mighty Tigers. After holding Clemson to a field goal on its first drive, the Hokies drove to take the lead with Braxton Burmeister as the quarterback.

“On the first series, Hendon [Hooker] didn’t listen in the huddle and he dropped the snap, so we took him out to settle him down for one series,” Fuente said. “Planning on settling him down for one series and Braxton went in and led us to a touchdown, so we kept Braxton in the game.”

The big play of the drive was a 48-yard connection from Burmeister to Tayvion Robinson, setting up the 4-yard touchdown by Khalil Herbert to go ahead 7-3.

Virginia Tech Tayvion Robinson
Tayvion Robinson had Virginia Tech’s longest catch of the day, this 48-yarder. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

Trevor Lawrence and Co. easily marched down the field, grabbing the 10-7 lead on his 17-yard quarterback scamper with 0:12 left in the first quarter. The Hokies responded by moving the ball into Clemson territory, moving down to the 28-yard line. However, as the play was over, Brock Hoffman jumped on top of a Tigers’ defender, drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty and losing the opportunity for the Hokies to collect at least a field goal on the drive. 

Hoffman had another penalty later in the game that stalled a drive before he was pulled for Zachariah Hoyt.

“I thought they were unforced errors and you can’t have those when you play teams like this,” Fuente said. “I didn’t see either one, but he had two penalties. He’s probably not happy with me right now and I understand that, but we can’t do those things.”

Armani Chatman Dropped Interception

Right after Bradburn’s punt following the Hoffman penalty, Virginia Tech was nearly gifted the ball right back. 

Armani Chatman played stellar defense, jumping a route and baiting Lawrence into a bad decision. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback did everything right except secure the interception when Lawrence threw it right to him. The Hokies did force a punt on the drive and proceeded to tie the game at 10-10 behind Brian Johnson’s 54-yard field goal, but Chatman’s dropped interception would have put Virginia Tech right in scoring position with a chance to go ahead with a touchdown.

It was the theme of the night for Virginia Tech with minor mistakes and missed opportunities that cost the team.

“Everybody is just battling right now,” tight end James Mitchell said. “It’s tough with the way things are going. Guys got deflated because we made some mistakes that we can’t make against a team like that. For a long time we were right there.” 

End of First Half Sequence

Clemson regained the lead for good with Lyn-J Dixon’s 19-yard rushing touchdown with 1:06 left on the first-half clock. After Herbert returned the kickoff to the 33-yard line with 55 seconds to go, Fuente and his staff, with three timeouts left, went extremely conservative on offense.

Herbert rushed for four yards, and then Tech ran the play clock all the way down before he busted off a 21-yard gain. Virginia Tech then called timeout, and with two seconds remaining, Burmeister heaved a Hail Mary that was batted by a Clemson defender right into the arms of Raheem Blackshear near the goal line. However, Blackshear couldn’t reach the ball out and was stopped just inches short of a touchdown. 

The Hokies entered the half trailing 17-10, but many were left wondering why a better attempt wasn’t made at tying the game before heading into the locker room.

“They had three timeouts also,” Fuente said. “They just ran through us like we weren’t even out there. My first thought was do not roll our tails out there with three incompletions and give them the ball right back. We ran the ball, busted one run, and took a chance to throw it in the end zone. I’d do it again playing these guys. Now if we were playing somebody else in a different situation, you can play it a bunch of different ways.

“When you watch those guys and they’ve got their timeouts, the first thing is not having your defense have to take the field again with Trevor Lawrence and all that comes with that. We ran the ball, popped one out, and took a shot in the end zone.”

Braxton Burmeister Fumble

After three-and-outs by both teams to start the second half, Clemson seemed poised to put the game away on its next possession. 11 plays later, the Tigers got it down to a third-and-goal from the 8-yard line. This time Virginia Tech’s defense made the play when presented the opportunity.

Divine Deablo stepped in front of Lawrence’s pass to the end zone and picked it off for the touchback, keeping it a one-score game.

Divine Deablo Virginia Tech
Divine Deablo intercepts a throw by Trevor Lawrence in the end zone. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

“This game I was focused on disguising because I feel like [Lawrence] didn’t get a lot of that,” Deablo said. “My job was just to hit the post. I read his eyes and I saw the pick coming right behind the back of the end zone. I just made the play.”

The next possession was doomed for the Hokies. An illegal chop block from Hoffman moved the ball from the 20 back to the 10, and then Burmeister fumbled on the ensuing rush. Clemson recovered and two plays later Lawrence carried it into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown and a 24-10 advantage.

On the next drive, Burmeister got sacked on third down for a three-and-out. The redshirt junior quarterback did not return to the game and finished 10-of-12 passing for 127 yards.

“Braxton got knocked out of the game,” Fuente said. “He got injured and couldn’t go back in.”

Hendon Hooker Fumble

Following a 7-yard shanked punt by Clemson, Virginia Tech took over just 32 yards away from making it a one-score game once again with 2:21 left in the third. Instead, it just set the scene for the knockout blow.

Hooker returned to the game for the first time since the opening series. The Greensboro native again fumbled the snap just like he did in that first drive. This time Clemson’s Derion Kendrick recovered the loose ball and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. 

“He’s had some issues in the past with catching the snap which is kind of an odd thing for him,” Fuente said. “He’s got great height and coordination and big ole strong hands. He was a good basketball player, but occasionally he has had some issues with that.”

Something appeared off with Hooker on the sideline following the fumble. He was actively shivering and hunched over. When the Hokies got the ball back, quarterback Knox Kadum was sent onto the field.

“We were going to put [Hooker] back in and the trainer came to me and told me that he was cold,” Fuente said. “I don’t know if there’s something more significant or serious or what with that. I’ve never seen that before or heard that before. I don’t know any more than that.”

Clemson added two late touchdowns to bring the score to the final score of 45-10. It leaves Virginia Tech with its second four game losing streak in the past three years. All that’s left on the schedule at this point is a home game next Saturday against Virginia.

“It’s Virginia, so that says it for itself,” said Herbert who finished the game with 96 rushing yards and a touchdown. “Guys are already ready for that. I don’t really think we really have to get everybody up. That’s a game that everybody gets up for.”

Virginia Tech-Clemson Notes

Just last week, Knox Kadum was the fourth string quarterback for the Hokies. Following Burmeister and Hooker’s exit from the game and Quincy Patterson’s entry into the transfer portal earlier in the week, Kadum was pushed into action for the first time in his career against No. 3 Clemson.

“I ran scout team this week,” Kadum said. “Was doing everything to help the defense. Last night I met with a bunch of our coaches and GA’s. We went over the game plan, what we were going to do, everything. Got it down as best as I could. My job was to be ready if my number was called. That’s kind of what happened. It was very unlikely, but that’s how it went tonight.”

Kadum ended 4-for-6 passing for 68 yards and 24 yards on the ground.

“It’s an immense challenge,” Fuente said. “The thing about Knox is he’s a competitor. I’m sure he was nervous, but he went out there and competed. I am proud of him. We saw something in Knox in high school. He’s still developing obviously. I think as he continues to work and get better, he’s got a chance to be productive Division I quarterback here at Virginia Tech.”

Khalil Herbert’s 96 rushing yards gave him 1,020 yards on the season. Herbert became Virginia Tech’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Travon McMillian in 2015.

“Definitely coming into the year, it was one of my personal goals,” Herbert said. “It was definitely something I wanted to accomplish.”

So where do Fuente and the program stand following this loss that marks the first losing regular season since 1992?

“I’m not going to tell you I feel great, we just lost,” Fuente said. “I feel great about what we’re doing and where we’re going. The context of the season, you guys know. You don’t need to see me whining up here to know about that. I feel great. It’s time for us to get ready for Virginia.”

— box score —


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33 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I have been coming to games for years and never have I seen such chicken crap coaching. When you,re down you get up and try harder,you don’t lie in the mud for almost a minute and try not to score. Put on your common sense cap. WHOEVER SCORES THE MOST POINTS WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WORKED 6 straight days standing on concrete (with a body that is sick with heart disease and 4 or 5 other malfunctions) TO come home to watch this game and make me feel like a stupid idiot. Oh, I know if you;re that sick why are you still , because my family has to have a place to sleep.

  2. Ok guys!! Why don’t all of you that are doing but complaining go our and coach!! And then all you that have said something. Today fork over 1.0 million! Then you can complain and get rid of the coach..then who are you going to get..Shane ? I hope not! Even if he is going to USC. Doesn’t mean he is going to win!

    To be honest I don’t like what is going on but we should have won against Miami and liberty but you know the foot of the kicker played a big part of that game. We would have beat both of those teams.

    But come on guys put your money where your mouth is and fork over millions to get rid of FU. And then fork over more to get a good coach..I mean who wants to come to VA TECH? And then we have 5 more years until you get rid of someone else..and then we have the same BS that you guys are spewing..

    Ok now that you guys are going to get rid of FU. Now go out and go after Mike Young!!! He might lose more games this year..oh my !!! and then we can go after the snake at Texas A & M again.

    And then we can become the same as most teams in the SEC..and have a constant coaching carousel!!!

    You complainers are so pathetic!! Grow up!!!

    1. Could not agree more. None .. zilch .. nada .. none of the ‘Fire Fu’ crew has proposed a legit coach who’ll actually take the job. Not one. That proves your point and mine – that the ‘fire wackadoos’ are just reactive and tactical. As military leaders will tell you, ‘Tactics may win a random battle but analytics and logistics win the war.’ Or to mix metaphors, the wackadoos are hammers and every problem is a nail. Just beat it, beat it some more and some more again. Nope. Sorry fellas, your man cave and killer Samsung don’t equip you with the knowledge to ‘Fire Fu’ and ‘Fire Whit’ because you have no clue how to be CEO of a College Football Program. The moaning and complaining is just so, so old. Keep Fu, keep JHam and keep TNT. Make other changes. Revamp recruiting and give this thing more time. More than anything, TSL members need a rapid and VAST dose of reality on just who would actually take the job if you got your wish. It would be a downgrade. Guaranteed.

      1. Not our job to hire coaches. We’ve got a million dollar a year AD to do that and he better get the firing and the hiring moving or hand in his resignation.

        Whit moved into a sweet gig at VT. Department in the black and he has us stuck in mud.

  3. Did anyone else read the article? It lays out the 5 critical mistakes in the game. Four of the five were not on the coaches at all. 1)We have universally been applauding Brock for playing to the echo of the whistle since he got here. He went a bit too far, 2) Chapman made a great (khan made a great call), but there is a reason that we put Chapman on D after he came in as a receiver, 3)end of half, we were on our own side of field, had as many 3 and outs as sustained drives, and don’t necessarily have the O to throw 3 straight times against Clemson. I think he played it right, adjusted when we got across midfield, and took as shot. Blackshear was a safety valve and didn’t realize where he was on the field until after he was out of bounds. Tough play, 4) BB fumbled the ball at a really crappy point 5) WTF with HH snap issues? They seemed like they were worked out, but I think he was trying so hard to get the best read that he could that he pulled his eyes too early…twice. I think FU had a very good game plan, our players were not scared, and that corn called a better than average game. However, against top 5 team, you can’t have that many critical mistakes team.

  4. Is there anyone left that still wants Fuente here? We’ve been outscored 52-0 in the 2nd half the last two games. We were in both games at the half obviously. Aside from the very questionable play calls and often baffling in game decisions this year Fuente is flat out just getting outcoached most weeks. Yet he “feels great”!!!!

  5. This one wasn’t on the coach. Coaching was just fine.

    Two missed snaps by HH, bad snap to punter, fumble down close in scoring territory, botched interception, stupid piling on penalty.
    Guys played hard, but three pedestrian QBs don’t equal one great one.
    Hats off to QBs BB and KK. Tough situation to be thrown into.

    1. I didn’t like taking 25 seconds to call a play before the half….Fuente has a hurry up offense problem. Also can’t understand why Blackshear doesn’t try to reach across the goal line there.

  6. “They just ran through us like we weren’t even out there”
    So with the football Fuente decides to go into halftime more concerned about potentially giving up points rather than scoring points. Did he expect a different hokie defense in the 2nd half? Seems they did their best to hold the line in the 1st half. This tells me he was more concerned about losing by more than 38 points than winning the game.

    1. That’s a perfect fan thought, but if you’re the coach of a hopeless underdog, you think as Fu did.

      1. If he thought we were a hopeless underdog in a one score game in that moment then he shouldn’t be coaching for us. That’s a losing mentality and that seeps through your program and is completely unacceptable.

    2. Agree with these comments. My take is that we played competitively up to halftime, but Fuente seemed to have no confidence on the last possession that our guys could put up at least 3 points before the half.

  7. So we practiced 2 weeks to play scared. No play action; reverses, and quick throws over the middle.

  8. I am concerned for Hooker as there had to be something more. You can count on VT not sharing any more information. Hate to say it though we are 2-8 in the last ten games Hooker has started . We need a qb and we totally messed up Quincy

    1. I agree on QP. Him leaving really hurts. I saw him as being the best athlete of the group of QB’s they have. Coaches obviously saw it differently. Only thing you can assume is QP just didn’t get it done in practice.

  9. Feeling bad for the guys right now. They were playing their tails off and going toe to toe. If not for a couple self inflicted wounds we could have been leading going into the fourth qtr. We have the talent to compete and to blow away teams like Wake and Liberty. It all, starts with a good game plan. Which we had last night for a change other than continuing to beat up our QBs even when on the 3rd stringer! What we lack is discipline and consistency and that goes back to coaching and development.

  10. It’s all about lacking talent, a qb who can’t handle snaps and generally does not threaten teams with the passing game, lb w 1 tackle, anothet qb who can’t protect the ball in a crtical situation, no receivers who can take the top off a defense, tailback who cant extend or lunge a half yard from the ez, lineman playing w no composure, defenders stepping into holes presnap but being barely in the camera frame as the back runs through the same hole, defenders a half step slow standing by the qb as he slings it around….we have an oline, a tailback and the rest look nothing like teams of the past. Our qb’s couldn’t hold a candle to Bryan Randall and that’s saying something. Make the players get in shape and get muscled up or turn their scholarships in.

    Get somebody here who can recruit and quit crying about covid, loss revenue, buyouts and all the other bs. None of it is stopping USCe from getting a coach. If the University as a whole can’t fund an end to this coaching crap show and buy a recruiting support staff for the next coach then they should just exit the ACC and go back to doormat independent and quit putting any money into athletics.

    1. I am in full agreement with your comments!! I believe that the issues with the current staff are FUBAR !

  11. Again……that was a bunch of BS from Fuente during the Mike Burnup post game interview. Our coach threw H Hooker under the bus at least twice. So your telling me The “CEO” of a team is willing to come to a post game news interview with only word of mouth trainer information? And when asked to deliver an account of what transpired with Hendon on the field, you respond in a way that was not empathetic and essentially indirectly implyed your QB was mentally unready or mentally and/or physically soft tonight because you heard he was “cold”. After the game, you dont go immediately check on your star QB to see and know for your own eyes what the heck just happen out there to your offensive leader so that you can share a more concise update on your QB to the press and your concerning fanbase?
    Another disconnected moment with this coach.

    I hope im wrong but something was wrong with Hoooker more severe than just being cold. He was convulsing……like some kind of involuntary muscle event or some kind of acute respiratory or epileptic event. It also seemed to me Hendon, his teammates, and others weren’t demonstrating signs this was a first time event either.

    How have we fallen this low so fast? Hendon or QP will show up in Columbia next year and Shane Beamer with his jovial self will have the Gamecocks beating UGA and looking like world beaters.

    1. I agree 100%. We will not beat the Hoos and they will keep the cup. Wake up Hokie Nation and make a change, at the HC position.

    2. Ever been that cold? Convulsion-like shivering occurs. Doesn’t have to be extremely cold. He wasn’t dressed for the dropping temperature.

      1. Yes, I have been that cold, but it has always been due to the activity I was doing required me to sit STILL. I’ve been miserable playing in the teens, but not convulsing. Get up move around, put on a jacket, stand next to a heater, cheer, throw, on and on, lots of options. SOMETHING is not right here in this incident and not right across this whole team. No reason for convulsing, unless he was sick but we will not hear from this dipsh*t coach, unless he needs to balance out how “great” he feels.

  12. Seems like every time something good happened for us it was immediately followed by something bad. Never could get excited for very long.

    I thought Hooker passed poorly in the Miami game and hurt our chances to win. And now he has trouble catching the snap. Reminds me of Steve Sax not being able to throw the baseball from 2nd base to first base. It’s the simplest task of playing the position. It was a mental thing. Disappointing. I was looking forward to having a solid QB for most of 3 years. Haven’t had that since Logan.

    I thought the defense played pretty well which was encouraging.

    1. I thought that too (Sax); HH has the Yips. And can’t do the basic QB task of catching the snap. Not good. Feel bad for him.

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