Posted on October 1, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Virginia Tech teams are typically known more for their defense, but this year’s Hokies are a little different. Yes, they still have the kind of defense fans know and love, but the offense has been doing a great job of moving the ball as well. But the team had yet to be truly tested prior to Saturday night’s game against the No. 2 Clemson Tigers.
If you are going to be tested, there’s nothing quite like taking on the defending national champions. But, as they found out, it is not easy to dethrone the champions. The No.12 Hokies gave the Tigers a good fight. But in the end, Clemson came out on top, 31-17.
“When we got here, I could sense the energy and the excitement,” Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said after the game (ESPN). “The coaches did a great job of preparing us.”
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While Virginia Tech was counting on its defense to lead the way, it was the Clemson defense that stole the show in the first half. Virginia Tech didn’t get a first down until their fourth drive of the game. But by then, Clemson had already taken a 10-0 lead.
Four of the Hokies first five offensive possessions were three and outs. They were able to put a field goal on the board before the end of the half. But the Tigers added another touchdown to make the score 17-3, Clemson, at the break.
“We knew the sledding was going to be difficult no matter what they lined up in,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said while talking to reporters (ESPN).
To beat Clemson, Virginia Tech needed Bryant to play like a quarterback making only his fifth career start. They limited him to 12 completions on 21 attempts in the passing game for 186 yards and one touchdown. But they couldn’t force him into making any mistakes (zero interceptions, zero sacks).
The Hokies did a good job against the Clemson running backs as well—except for Bryant. He led the way on the ground for the Tigers with 19 carries for 94 yards.
“What a dynamic kid,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said after the game (ESPN). “We couldn’t get him on the ground.”
It would have helped if Virginia Tech’s offense could have moved the ball, but the Clemson defense was too much. Josh Jackson was never able to get the offense on track. The running game mustered just 90 yards on 28 carries. Jackson had a rough night in the passing game as well (29-44 for 252 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions including a pick-6).
The Hokies didn’t make it into the end zone until early in the fourth quarter after a punt return gave the offense the ball at the Clemson two-yard line. Jackson tacked on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Sean Savoy in garbage time to make the final score (31-17, Clemson) look better than how the game went.
Virginia Tech had hoped to record its first win against a defending national champion but instead fell to 0-8 in such games.
The win gave Clemson its third victory over a top-15 team this season and made the Tigers the first team to ever do so before October. Barring injuries to key players, the Tigers could very well be undefeated at the end of the regular season. They do not have an opponent who is currently ranked on their remaining schedule.
Next week they will face off against Wake Forest at home (12 PM ET kickoff). Virginia Tech will hope to get back on track against Boston College (7:15 PM ET kickoff).