No. 13 Clemson beats No. 11 Virginia Tech, 23-3By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer Saturday, Oct 1, 2011
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)—Now Tajh Boyd and No. 13 Clemson can really start to believe.
Boyd directed another efficient offense and the Tigers’ defense turned in its best effort of the season in Clemson’s first road game, a 23-3 victory against No. 11 Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Tigers (5-0) became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to beat ranked opponents three weeks in a row, and ended the Hokies’ 12-game winning streak in league play.
“Coach (Dabo) Swinney calls it the “Shock the World Tour,” Boyd said after the Tigers followed four consecutive home games with their first victory in the last six tries against the Hokies.
“We really feel like we believe in what we can do, but I don’t think a lot of people have seen that yet,” the Virginia native said. “We’re steadily attaining our goals.”
And while Boyd was the headliner in victories against Auburn and Florida State, he had plenty of help this time: rushing touchdowns from Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy, and a defense that limited the Hokies to 258 yards and no touchdowns at home for the first time since 1995.
The defensive performance stood out, even for the offense.
“Those guys were just waiting for the opportunity to show they could shut down an offense and big players,” tight end Dwayne Allen said. “We’ve learned a little from each win. Last week in the Florida State game, we learned the defense could be dominant when we needed it to be.”
Andre Branch led the way with three sacks, and was involved in 11 tackles.
“Andre Branch was a man on a mission,” Swinney gushed afterward.
The Tigers’ offense, again, showed it could dissect a heralded defense.
It did it last week against the Seminoles’ fifth-ranked defense in a 35-30 victory, and again against the Hokies’ fourth-ranked unit, which was allowing 231 yards per game.
The Tigers had 323, 204 through the air as Boyd completed 13 of 32 attempts, including a number of third-and-long conversions.
“He probably didn’t have his greatest game, but he made plays when they needed him to,” Hokies linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of getting off the field, especially in those third and longs.”
The Tigers led 10-3 at halftime and doubled the edge quickly after halftime.
Following an 11-yard punt by Scott Demler, who dropped the ball while rolling toward a rugby style kick and them seemed to kick the end of the ball, Boyd hit Jaron Brown for 27 yards. Ellington ran for 7 and Boyd found Allen on the next play for a 32-yard touchdown.
Allen got inside rover Eddie Whitley on the play and made it look easy.
The rest of the half featured drive after drive that started, then stopped for the Hokies, and when they came up short on a fourth-and-4 from the Tigers 12, Clemson put the game away.
The Tigers’ 88-yard drive featured Boyd passes of 20 yards to Allen and 13 to Brown on a third-and-5 from the Tigers’ 42, and Bellamy’s 31-yard burst for the touchdown.
That sent Hokies fans who filled the stadium and sat through 40 degree temperatures with a stiff breeze and drizzle falling during parts of the game streaming glumly for the exits.
But nothing the Hokies did all night suggested the outcome would be different.
A fumble by David Wilson set up Clemson’s first score. Wilson was hit by Carlton Lewis while breaking through the line, and the ball popped into the air, right to Jonathan Meeks. He returned it inside the Hokies’ 5, but a holding call brought it back to the Tigers’ 41.
Boyd hit Brown between two defenders for 16 yards on third-and-4, but three straight incompletions from the Virginia Tech 14 forced a 31-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.
The Hokies tied it in the second quarter when Jayron Hosley jumped in front of Boyd’s pass and returned it 14 yards to the Tigers’ 31. It was Hosley’s 12th career interception, and just the second thrown by Boyd this season.
An 18-yard run by Wilson on third-and-2 from the 23 got the Hokies to the 5, but two runs by Wilson netted just 3 yards, and a false start pushed the ball back to the 7. After Logan Thomas threw incomplete under pressure, Cody Journell made a 24-yard field goal with 4:35 left in the half.
That left Boyd with plenty of time, and Hokies linebacker Wiley Brown helped out with a 15-yard personal foul on the kickoff. Starting at the Virginia Tech 48, Boyd did some dazzling work passing and running to drive the Tigers them to the go-ahead touchdown before the half was over.
On third-and-10 from the 48, he hit Ellington for 11 yards. On third-and-8 from the 35, he found Sammy Watkins open deep downfield for 23 yards, and then ran 9 yards on the next play.
Ellington’s 1-yard run gave the Tigers a 10-3 lead.
The only threat the Hokies mounted after halftime ended the with a fourth-down pass from Thomas that Danny Coale had no chance of catching, followed by the Tigers clinching drive.
Thomas was just 15 for 27 for 125 yards and was sacked four times.