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The Clemson Tigers dominated the Virginia Tech Hokies in the second half Saturday night, winning the ACC Championship game 38-10. The victory clinched Clemson its first ACC title since 1991, along with its first ever BCS bowl game bid, and its first trip to the Orange Bowl in 30 years.
“There have been a lot of walls built up around this program over the last 20 years and we knocked them down tonight,” said head coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson took the field ranked just twentieth in the BCS in comparison to Virginia Tech’s number five standing. However, the Tigers had great confidence in their chances after already defeating the Hokies earlier this season.
That confidence grew even stronger early in the game after Clemson recovered a Logan Thomas fumble on Virginia Tech’s first possession. The Tigers’ defense was desperate for a turnover, as this was the first one forced over the last four games. The ball was recovered at the Virginia Tech 24.
Clemson was unable to move the ball on the first two plays, but Tajh Boyd began the scoring with a 3rd and 10 touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen. After the teams exchanged punts Virginia Tech responded with less than a minute remaining in the first. Thomas led a 77 yard drive that ended with a 45 yard touchdown pass to receiver D.J. Coles to tie the game at seven.
But that would be Thomas’ only touchdown toss on a night where he struggled considerably. He may have thrown for 274 yards, but he also threw two interceptions on just 22-44 passing. Virginia Tech struggled on the ground as well. Running backs David Wilson and Josh Oglesby combined for just 54 yards rushing on 17 carries. Thomas’ two yards on 12 carries gave the team a total of only 56 for the entire four quarters.
The teams went into the half tied at 10 after the Hokies took advantage of a roughing the passer penalty late in the second quarter. The call kept their drive alive, allowing them to eventually make a 42 yard field goal with one second remaining. A trip to Miami for a spot in the Orange Bowl would come down to just 30 minutes of football.
Clemson came out of the half looking like a completely different team, clinching the berth with ease. The Tigers took a 17-10 lead early in the third quarter after Boyd finished off a drive with another touchdown pass to Allen. It was his second touchdown pass of three on the evening.
The sophomore quarterback went 20-29 with 240 yards passing on the evening, while also tallying an additional 28 yards on the ground. Boyd’s final touchdown pass was a 53 yard throw to star receiver Sammy Watkins on their next possession, giving Clemson a 24-10 lead.
Logan Thomas and the Hokies had no answers for Clemson’s defense, which completely took over in the second half. Virginia Tech’s final stand came late in the third quarter trailing 31-10 following an Andre Ellington 29 yard touchdown run. They moved the ball to the Clemson 30, but failed to convert on 4th and 2 after a drop.
Boyd added one more touchdown for good measure, giving his team touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half. And although he had a great game, Clemson’s 38 points would not have been possible without an outstanding ground attack. Andre Ellington ran for 125 yards on 20 attempts, and the team ran for 217 yards total.
Most teams would be proud of an 11-2 season, but Virginia Tech knows that they let an automatic BCS bid slip away in the second half. “It was one of those games where things didn’t happen right,” said head coach Frank Beamer. Meanwhile, Swinney and his Tigers will finally return to the Orange Bowl – a national stage where they can return their program back to glory.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that I’m taking my Clemson talents to South Beach, baby.”
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