Nyles Pinckney knew the stakes when third-ranked Clemson traveled to Blacksburg, Va. and defeated Virginia Tech 45-10 on a cold night at Lane Stadium.
The Tigers clinched a sixth-consecutive bid to the ACC Championship Game and secured a rematch with No. 2 Notre Dame.
Pinckney approached the game as a must win to make it to Charlotte and stay in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.
“Especially in a game like that we knew we could either punch our ticket to the ACC Championship Game or get ready for a regular bowl in the New Year’s Six,” Pinckney said. “It was a great feeling for me and my teammates to celebrate after all we’ve been through this season.”
The senior defensive tackle recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter to end a Hokie red zone drive. It was the third fumble recovery of his Clemson career and his first since October 2019.
For Pinckney the fumble recovery was just the cherry on top with Clemson earning the right to play for another conference championship.
“I feel like the fumble recovery was kind of like the cherry on top for me because at that point in the game because I knew at that point in the game it was probably the last few plays I was going to be in,” he said.
Now, Clemson has turned its sights toward the Fighting Irish and Pinckney has a lot of respect for what they have accomplished this season.
“They are a great team and have earned the respect of everybody in the league coming in here for a year,” Pinckney said. “We knew what to expect and that they would be a good team like they are every year.”
Notre Dame defeated Clemson 47-40 in double overtime in South Bend, In. on Nov. 7. Now, Pinckney is ready for another shot at the Irish in two weekends but knows getting revenge is no easy task and is treating the game like every other ACC Championship Game.
“I feel like they could make the conference championship in every league because they are a really good team and it’s a huge honor to play them again especially after losing in South Bend,” Pinckney said. “We treat it like every ACC Championship we prepare the right way to be ready.”
Clemson benefits from an open date before it squares off with the undefeated Irish on Dec. 19 in the ACC Championship Game at 4 p.m.