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Dec 05, 2020

FINAL: Clemson 45, VT 10

No. 3 Tigers Defeat Virginia Tech 45-10, Clinching Sixth Straight ACC Championship Berth

Box Score

BLACKSBURG, Va. — No. 3 Clemson (9-1, 8-1 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech 45-10 on Saturday to advance to its sixth consecutive ACC Championship Game. With the win, Trevor Lawrence became the winningest starting quarterback in school-history (33), surpassing Rodney Williams, Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson’s shared record of 32. 

After a competitive first half, the Tigers pulled away from the Hokies (4-6, 4-5 ACC) with the help of three forced fumbles, two of which resulted in Clemson touchdowns. Virginia Tech was held to a scoreless second half and only 131 total rushing yards, its lowest single-game-total this season.

Clemson opened the scoring with a 28-yard B.T. Potter field goal, but the Hokies responded to take their only lead of the game on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The Tigers regained the advantage when Lawrence scampered for a 17-yard score, joining Tajh Boyd (133), Lamar Jackson (119), Deshaun Watson (116) and Philip Rivers (112) as the only players in ACC history to be responsible for 100 career touchdowns (scored and/or thrown).

After a 55-yard Virginia Tech field goal evened the score at 10 apiece, Lyn-J Dixon capped off a 75-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown run for his second score of the season. The Tigers escaped with a 17-10 halftime lead after a hail mary pass was caught at the one-yard line as the half expired, but the Hokie receiver failed to cross the goal-line. 

After Myles Murphy forced his third fumble of the season, Clemson cashed in on the turnover with a seven-yard Lawrence touchdown run to open the second-half scoring. The Tiger defense continued to wreak havoc, as Derion Kendrick scooped up a Virginia Tech fumble and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown to give Clemson a 31-10 lead heading into the final frame. 

In the fourth quarter, Lawrence found Cornell Powell for a 65-yard touchdown bomb on his last snap of the evening. On the first and only snap of the game for D.J. Uiagalelei, Darien Rencher, who won the Disney Spirit Award earlier in the week, took a handoff 50 yards for the first touchdown of his season and longest rush of his career. 

The Tigers will play in their sixth consecutive ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday, Dec. 19, in a rematch with Notre Dame. Kickoff for that title game is slated for 4 p.m. ET on ABC.

Game Notes

  • Clemson recorded three takeaways and has now recorded at least three takeaways in back-to-back games since a three-game stretch against Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
  • Clemson finished plus-two in the turnover margin, improving to 29-1 under Dabo Swinney when finishing exactly plus-two in the margin.
  • After a plus-four margin in turnovers last week, Clemson has now won the turnover margin by multiple turnovers in back-to-back games for the second time this season (plus-two against both Virginia and Miami (Fla.)).
  • Conversely, Clemson rushed for 238 yards, its second most of the season behind its 258 vs. Miami (Fla.). Clemson improved to 67-1 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
  • Clemson joined 2013 Florida State as the only ACC teams ever to score 34 or more points in each of the first 10 games of a season.
  • Clemson recorded multiple rushing touchdowns in a 26th consecutive game. The last time Clemson was held to a single rushing touchdown was in the 2018 Cotton Bowl.
  • Lawrence improved to 33-1 as a starter, breaking the school record for wins as a starting quarterback shared previously by Rodney Williams, Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson (32 wins each).
  • On a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Lawrence joined Tajh Boyd (133), Lamar Jackson (119), Deshaun Watson (116) and Philip Rivers (112) as the only players in ACC history to be responsible for 100 career touchdowns (scored and/or thrown).
  • Lawrence added his second touchdown run on a seven-yard rush in the third quarter. His two rushing touchdowns tied a career high set in this year’s season opener against Wake Forest.
  • The second rushing touchdown of the game for Lawrence was his 16th of his career, moving him into a tie with Kelly Bryant for fifth-most by a Clemson quarterback in the modern era.
  • Wide receiver Cornell Powell scored on a 65-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
  • The touchdown pass to Powell was Lawrence’s 12th completion of the night. On that completion, Lawrence (700) joined Tajh Boyd (901), Charlie Whitehurst (817) and Deshaun Watson (814) as the only Clemson players to reach 700 career completions.
  • The pass was Lawrence’s 18th touchdown pass of 50 yards or more, surpassing Tajh Boyd (17) for the most by a Clemson quarterback since 1950.
  • Powell has now caught a touchdown in three straight games for the first time in his career. He is the second Clemson player to accomplish the feat this year, joining tight end Davis Allen, who scored against Virginia, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech in three straight weeks.
  • Running back Darien Rencher, who won the Disney Spirit Award earlier this week, scored on a career-long 50-yard run in the fourth quarter.
  • With the touchdown reception by Powell and the touchdown run by Rencher, Clemson produced multiple touchdowns of 50 yards or more in a single game for the first time since last year’s Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
  • Tight end Braden Galloway recorded a career-long 49-yard reception in the first quarter. His previous long was a 42-yard reception against LSU in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
  • Running back Lyn-J Dixon scored his second touchdown of the season on a 19-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
  • Dixon has now scored a touchdown in consecutive games for the first time since the first two games of the 2019 season against Georgia Tech and Texas A&M.
  • Defensive end Myles Murphy forced his third fumble of the season in the third quarter. It was recovered by cornerback Mario Goodrich, his first career fumble recovery.
  • Cornerback Derion Kendrick scored on a 66-yard fumble return in the third quarter. It was his second career touchdown, joining an interception return touchdown against Florida State in 2019.
  • With Kendrick’s fumble return touchdown, Clemson recorded a third scoop-and-score in a season for the first time in school records back to 1951. 
  • Clemson has now recorded at least three defensive touchdowns in four straight seasons, its longest streak in records back to 1951.
  • Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney recorded his third fumble recovery — the third of his career — in the fourth career to end a Virginia Tech red zone drive. It was his first fumble recovery since Oct. 19, 2019 at Louisville.
  • Linebacker LaVonta Bentley and defensive end Xavier Thomas split a sack to force a Virginia Tech punt. The half-sack pushed Thomas’ season total to a team-high-tying 3.5 sacks. 
  • Bentley added a full sack on a fourth down in the fourth quarter to also join Thomas, Baylon Spector and Myles Murphy for the team lead with 3.5 sacks this season. Clemson entered the game second in the country in sacks despite no single player having 4.0 sacks on the season.
  • With the sacks, Clemson recorded multiple sacks in a 16th straight game, tying a 16-game streak from 2018-19 for the Tigers’ third-longest streak since 1980. Clemson now has multiple sacks in 32 of its last 33 games.
  • Clemson played its seventh December regular season game in school history. The win improved Clemson to 4-3 in those contests, giving the Tigers four December regular season wins in a row, dating to 1948.
  • Temperature at kickoff was 37 degrees, Clemson’s coldest game of the season and its coldest since 2018 at Boston College (34 degrees). It was the fifth-coldest recorded kickoff temperature in Clemson history. Clemson is now 9-0 under Dabo Swinney when the kickoff temperature is 45 degrees or colder.
  • Clemson played its latest regular season finale since joining the ACC in 1953, including only its second regular season contest in December in that span. Clemson closed the 2001 regular season with a 59-31 win against Duke on Dec. 1, 2001. This game against Virginia Tech is the program’s second-latest regular season finale all-time, behind a Dec. 8, 1928 finale against The Citadel.

With the Win...

  • Clemson clinched a berth in the ACC Championship Game with the victory. It will be Clemson’s eighth all-time ACC Championship Game appearance, adding to the Tigers’ ACC record, and its sixth straight appearance, also an ACC record.
  • Clemson becomes the first Power Five team to appear in six consecutive conference championship games. The only other active conference to have one team represented in six straight championship games is the MAC, in which Marshall qualified for six straight years from 1997-2002, as did Northern Illinois from 2010-15.
  • Clemson earned a ninth win through the first 10 games of a season for the 15th time in school history. Clemson previously won at least nine games in its first 10 contests in the 1939, 1948, 1950, 1978, 1981, 1987, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.
  • Clemson won an eighth ACC regular season game for a third straight season for the first time in school history. It is Clemson’s fourth time winning eight ACC regular season games in a single season, joining the 2015, 2018 and 2019 seasons.
  • The 2020 Clemson seniors improved to 50-4 since 2017, becoming the fourth straight Clemson senior class (and the 11th such class in FBS history) to record 50 wins in four years.
  • The 2020 Clemson seniors are now 31-2 in ACC regular season play from 2017-20, surpassing the 2018 and 2019 seniors (30 wins each) as the winningest class in school history in regular season conference play. The group ties the four-year conference record of 31, set by multiple Florida State classes from 1995-2000.
  • Clemson improved to 51-3 against conference opponents since the start of the 2015 season, the first year of Clemson’s active run of five consecutive ACC titles.
  • Clemson won its sixth consecutive game against Virginia Tech, dating to the 2011 season when the Tigers defeated the Hokies twice. It is Clemson’s longest streak in the series since winning nine consecutive games against the Hokies from 1955-85.
  • Clemson won its third consecutive game in Blacksburg. 
  • Clemson won its 13th consecutive December game, dating to Clemson’s 2011 ACC Championship Game victory against Virginia Tech. Clemson entered the game as one of four schools to be undefeated in December since 2011 with a minimum of four games played, a list that also included Appalachian State (9-0), Alabama (8-0) and Penn State (4-0).
  • Clemson improved to 24-13 all-time in December games, including postseason play. 
  • Clemson improved to 3-0 in December games against Virginia Tech all-time, including wins in the 2011 and 2016 ACC Championship Games. 
  • Head Coach Dabo Swinney improved to 6-0 as a head coach vs. Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is one of five ACC schools against which Swinney is undefeated as head coach, a list that also includes Wake Forest (12-0), Louisville (6-0), Virginia (5-0) and Duke (3-0).
  • Clemson has now won 27 of its 29 true road games since the start of the 2015 season.
  • Though 2020 is technically a divisionless season, Clemson improved to 33-8 against opponents historically from the ACC Coastal Division, including postseason play, under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has won 19 of its last 20 games against the Coastal Division since 2015.
  • Clemson improved to 67-3 in regular season play since the start of the 2015 season.
  • Clemson now has a 107-2 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
  • Clemson now has a 64-3 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
  • Clemson is now 58-1 when scoring first since 2015.
  • Clemson has now won 86 of its last 88 games, including each of its last 49, when leading at halftime.
  • Clemson improved to 108-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
  • Clemson improved to 51-2 since 2015 when outscoring opponents in the “Middle Eight,” defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Clemson won those eight minutes by a 7-3 margin on Saturday.