The atmosphere at Lane Stadium on Saturday night was off the charts for the biggest regular season test of the Justin Fuente era. Sadly, it was a little different scene by halftime after No.2 Clemson sucked a lot of the air out after two quarters.
The Tigers stated their case once again that they are even better than they were during last year’s national title run by jumping out to a 17-3 lead at the break in Blacksburg while suffocating the No. 12 team in the country. And yes, it was a game that played out in a more impressive fashion than that double-digit lead would indicate for the reigning champions too.
Making his first major road start, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant once again impressive with both his arm (176 yards, one touchdown) and his legs (66 yards rushing) against one of the better defenses on the East Coast. While he did miss several deep shots that could have made the scoreline even more lopsided, it was nevertheless a quality outing for the starter who did not benefit from the strong running of Tavien Feaster (16 yards on just four carries) like he did last week.
As usual though, it was nothing compared to the effort from the Tigers’ defense. They forced the Hokies into three straight three-and-outs to open the game and didn’t allow them to cross mid-field until the second to last drive of the half (which doubled their yardage for the game in the process). Young signal-caller Josh Jackson was solid for Virginia Tech (103 yards passing) despite facing a ton of pressure and not having much of a run game to rely on either. All told the home squad converted just two third downs and will be behind the sticks the rest of the way to boot.
Lots of people expected a tough battle in this ACC championship game rematch but that hasn’t been the case so far on Saturday night. If Dabo Swinney’s team keeps this up, we might not see a team that will test them until the College Football Playoff.