Game-changing turnovers help Tigers pull away from Hokies

Game-changing turnovers help Tigers pull away from Hokies


Game-changing turnovers help Tigers pull away from Hokies


Despite being banged up at linebacker and struggling in the first half of Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech, Clemson’s defense stepped up in the final 30 minutes and caused a couple of game-changing turnovers in the third quarter to help the third-ranked Tigers pull away from the Hokies for a 45-10 victory at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.

After Trevor Lawrence was intercepted in the end zone by Virginia Tech defensive back Divine Deablo at the 5:30 mark of the third quarter with the Tigers ahead by just a touchdown, Clemson’s defense wasted no time getting the ball back to Lawrence and the offense.

On the first play of VT’s possession following the pick, quarterback Braxton Burmeister ran for a couple of yards before being met by Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy, who knocked the ball loose for a forced fumble that was recovered by cornerback Mario Goodrich at VT’s 12-yard line.

Two plays later, the Tigers padded their lead thanks to a 7-yard touchdown run by Lawrence, his second rushing score of the night that put Clemson up 24-10 with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

Later, in the final minutes of the frame, with Hendon Hooker in at quarterback in place of the injured Burmeister, Hooker muffed a snap on a play from Clemson’s 30-yard line, and the loose ball was picked up by cornerback Derion Kendrick and taken to the house for a 66-yard touchdown that made the score 31-10 and essentially put the game away.

Clemson’s defense recovered its third fumble of the second half midway through the fourth quarter at a point when it looked like the Hokies might find the end zone for a touchdown that would have cut their deficit to 38-17.

But a couple of plays after a 47-yard pass from third-string quarterback Knox Kadum to running back Jalen Holston set up VT at Clemson’s 6-yard line, linebacker Keith Maguire stripped the ball from Holston on a running play, and it was scooped in by defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney at the 9-yard line for a turnover that kept the Hokies from scoring.

With the win, Clemson finished the regular season with a 9-1 record (8-1 ACC) and clinched a spot in the ACC Championship Game, while Virginia Tech fell to 4-6 and 4-5 in conference play.

The Tigers will make their sixth straight ACC title game appearance and try to win their sixth consecutive conference title against now-No. 2 Notre Dame on Dec. 19 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

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