June 22, 2024


Health know-how

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech score, takeaways: No. 3 Tigers pull away to secure ACC Championship Game berth

Clemson can happen to you quickly, which we learned again on Saturday night. The No. 3 Tigers defeated Virginia Tech 45-10 in Blacksburg on Saturday night, but it felt like a game that was destined to be much closer. It was only a 17-10 game at halftime, and the Hokies defense stepped up at the start of the second half to keep the team in the game — for a bit.

It was a few minutes into the third quarter when Virginia Tech’s Divine Deablo (side note: what a name) intercepted Trevor Lawrence in the end zone to keep it a one-score game. It seemed like it would be one of those nights when Clemson would have to sweat it out, but then disaster struck the Hokies. Following the interception, Braxton Burmeister fumbled the ball while being sacked, and Clemson scored a couple of plays later to make it 24-10. On Virginia Tech’s next possession, with Hendon Hooker replacing an injured Burmeister, Hooker fumbled a snap. Clemson’s Derion Kendrick picked it up and took it 66 yards to the house to make it 31-10.

Things just snowballed from there. After the Hokies turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, Lawrence stuck the dagger in their hearts when he hit Cornell Powell for a 65-yard touchdown to make it 38-10. The Hokies would respond with another long drive, but Jalen Holston fumbled inside the Clemson 5-yard line to end the threat. After that, it was nothing but playing out the final minutes.

The win clinches a berth in the ACC Championship for Clemson, where the Tigers will meet up again with No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday, Dec. 19 in Charlotte. Here are four takeaways from the Tigers’ win on Saturday night. 

1. The ACC got what it wanted

I’m not going to sit here and argue for or against the ACC’s decision to alter its schedule to allow Notre Dame and Clemson a bye week before their meeting in the ACC Championship Game. During a season in which you can question the motives to even be playing, to argue the “morality” or “ethics” of such a decision seems especially stupid. Still, there’s no question what the ACC wanted to happen and why it wanted it to happen. The conference was looking out for its own best interests by increasing the likelihood of a rematch between its best teams; sorry, Miami, but we both know it’s true. And it will get just that.

Clemson and Notre Dame will meet in a rematch, and it’s not out of line to think the ACC could get two playoff teams out of it no matter the result. If Clemson gets revenge, a one-loss Notre Dame whose lone loss came to Clemson will have an argument just as strong as anybody else’s. If Notre Dame wins, it can be argued that Clemson’s first loss “didn’t count” because Lawrence didn’t play in the game.

Of course, the outcome is secondary to it all. What matters at the moment is that with Clemson’s win in Blacksburg and Notre Dame’s win over Syracuse earlier on Saturday, we’re getting a rematch. You’ll have a hard time finding a college football fan outside of Coral Gables who isn’t happy about that.

2. I wish Trevor Lawrence wasn’t asked to run so often

Believe me, I understand why the Tigers want him to do it. It’s a part of his game and it makes the offense more difficult to defend. I also understand why Lawrence likes to do it. Showcasing his ability as a runner does nothing to hurt his draft stock while only increasing it. Of course, one can wonder how much Lawrence’s stock can increase since he’s already seen as the likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Still, every time I see Lawrence keep on an option, go around the corner and lower his shoulder into a defender, I can’t help but cringe. It’s a stupid reaction because this is football we’re talking about and it’s a physical sport, but I can’t help it. I worry about him suffering an injury that affects his future, and that scares me because I believe Lawrence has a bright one.

3. Not the best passing night for Lawrence 

He completed only 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 195 yards and a touchdown. He had the red zone interception, but he’s lucky that was his only turnover on the night. Earlier in the game, he was staring down his receiver when he failed to notice Virginia Tech’s Armani Chatman sitting on the route. Lawrence threw the ball right to Chatman and it hit him in the hands, but we all got an indication as to why Chatman plays defense when he dropped the pass.

Lawrence’s 65-yard touchdown toss to Cornell Powell was not only his best throw of the night, but it was also one that made his final stat line look a lot better than his actual performance. I have no doubt in my mind that, barring injury, Lawrence will be the first pick in the NFL Draft this spring. He should be. Still, while many people talk about Lawrence as if he’s a sure thing at the next level, I’m not as convinced.

He has everything in his arsenal to be a great QB at the NFL level, but he also has some wrinkles he needs to iron out.

4. Loss can’t be pinned on Virginia Tech defense

The Hokies defense did just about everything you could ask of it on Saturday night. Clemson finished with 433 yards of offense, but a good chunk of those yards came late in the game after it had gotten out of hand. It was four Virginia Tech turnovers on offense that doomed the team.

Of the six touchdowns Clemson scored on Saturday, five came on offense. Of those five, only three came on drives of 50 yards or more. One of those three was a 50-yard touchdown run by Darien Rencher when the score was 38-10 and most of the reserves had entered the game. Had it not been for Tech’s problems holding onto the ball, this game likely would have been a lot closer. But that’s life when you’re playing Clemson. You have to be perfect to have a chance, and if you aren’t, 45-10 happens quickly.