CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Each time Virginia Tech had a chance to build momentum and take control, Clemson was there to swipe it away.
There were the three interceptions, two off of star quarterback Logan Thomas, a fumble on a Hokies’ punt return and two very big fourth-down stops in Virginia Tech’s 38-17 loss to the 14th-ranked Tigers on Saturday.
“It came down to about four, five, six plays,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “Those plays get the momentum going and the whole game changes a little bit.”
It changed plenty on a couple of first-half plays. Ahead 7-0 and eager to go for the throat early, Beamer chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 on Clemson’s 18. Michael Holmes was stopped short by linebacker Corico Wright and defensive end Cory Crawford.
Another moment came early in the second quarter when a short punt by Clemson’s Spencer Benton was touched by Tech and recovered by Tigers linebacker Tony Steward. Six plays later Tajh Boyd leaped for a 1-yard TD to put Clemson ahead for good 10-7.
Still another occurred three minutes later, with Thomas‘ pass sailing into the waiting hands of safety Jonathan Meeks who took off for a 74-yard touchdown run.
“We just needed to make a couple of plays when they were there for the taking,” Beamer said.
Thomas had 207 yards passing and a 29-yard scoring throw to Corey Fuller. Thomas also rushed for 99 yards and his 19-yard touchdown in the run in the fourth quarter gave the Hokies hope of a comeback.
But that ended a short time later when a flanker pass by Marcus Davis was picked off by Xavier Brewer. Boyd’s second touchdown run ended the scoring.
Thomas has thrown five interceptions and lost a fumble in his last 10 quarters against Clemson. No surprise the Hokies have lost all three games.
Boyd ran for two touchdowns and passed for another for the Tigers, who were held to their lowest offensive output of the season at 295 yards. Boyd thought the team didn’t come out as strong as he hoped for their first game in two weeks. Still, Boyd said, in other seasons, such a showing would lead to defeat. “I think it shows how far we’ve come,” he said.
Andre Ellington had a 12-yard touchdown run and 96 yards for the Tigers. All-American receiver Sammy Watkins has his most productive game this season with eight catches for 84 yards.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney knew it was the defense that led the way in Clemson’s third straight victory over Virginia Tech. “They had a great performance,” Swinney said. “From the sidelines, I believe it was their best effort.”
Boyd was 12 of 21 for 160 yards, 131 fewer than he averaged coming in.