Clemson defense turns up heat to beat Virginia Tech

No. 14 Clemson didn’t need a dominant performance from its offense to dispatch Virginia Tech, 38-17, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers’ defense had one of its best outings of the season, holding the Hokies to 128 second-half yards and their lowest point total of the season. And Clemson’s potent spread offense, which finished with a season-low 295 yards, took advantage of great field position for much of the game.

The Tigers (6-1, 3-1 in the ACC) tied a school record with their 11th consecutive home victory. They have beaten the Hokies (4-4, 2-2) three consecutive times in convincing fashion.

Clemson forced four Virginia Tech turnovers and sacked quarterback Logan Thomas twice. The Tigers allowed the fewest points all season to a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, better than the 19 they yielded to Auburn in the opener.

Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd got off the slow start, but he finished with 160 passing yards and three total touchdowns, two rushing. Clemson tailback Andre Ellington rushed for 96 yards and one touchdowns on 19 carries.

The Tigers broke the game open with two third-quarter touchdowns. Ellington scored on a 12-yard run and Boyd completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Brown for a 31-10 lead in the final minute of the third.

Thomas scored on a 19-yard run with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter to make it 31-17. He finished with 207 passing yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for a game-high 99 yards and one touchdown.

The Hokies outgained the Tigers, 248-137, in the first half but trailed, 17-10, because of interceptions and a major special teams gaffe.

Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks intercepted two of Thomas’ passes in the second quarter and returned the second 74 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 17-7 lead with 3:46 left go before halftime.

The Tigers took advantage of a muffed punt in the second quarter to score its other first-half touchdown. When the punt landed, the ball bounced off Virginia Tech’s Christian Reeves and was recovered by the Tigers’ Tony Steward at the Hokies’ 26-yard line.

Clemson needed only six plays to get into the end zone on Boyd’s diving 1-yard run with 9:29 left in the second quarter.

Virginia Tech was in control in the early going. The Hokies sacked Boyd twice and forced a Clemson punt on the first series and then took a 7-0 lead a short time later on Thomas’ 39-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Corey Fuller.

Clemson managed only a 27-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro in its first four possessions. It punted twice during that span, and Virginia Tech safety Michael Cole came down with an impressive interception of a pass by Boyd.

But the Tigers took the lead with two second-quarter touchdowns. Virginia Tech’s Cody Journell kicked a 40-yard field goal to cut the Tigers’ lead to 17-10 with three seconds left in the second quarter.

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