Clemson Scores Decisive Win over Virginia Tech Behind Dominant Defense

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2017

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Kelly Bryant #2 of the Clemson Tigers carries the ball during the second quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The No. 2 Clemson Tigers remained undefeated Saturday night with a 31-17 win over the No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The Tigers continued their defensive dominance by forcing three turnovers, and Clemson junior quarterback Kelly Bryant paced the offense with 186 yards and one touchdown through the air and 94 rushing yards.

Clemson improved to 5-0, while Virginia Tech fell to 4-1 in a rematch of last season's ACC Championship Game.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Clemson now has eight straight wins over AP-ranked opponents, while Virginia Tech fell to 0-8 versus defending national champions.

The Tigers also have a five-game winning streak over the Hokies by virtue of Saturday's triumph.

The night game in Blacksburg was heralded as a massive test for Clemson, and it seemed the Tigers would have a rowdy crowd to deal with based on the atmosphere when Virginia Tech took the field, as seen in this video courtesy of ESPN:

Despite how fired up the Hokies fans were, the Tigers came out of the gates firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball.

After a field goal on its opening drive, Clemson found the end zone with under seven minutes remaining in the first quarter when Bryant hit wide-open running back Tavien Feaster for a 60-yard touchdown.

With Clemson in firm control early on, Rodger Sherman of The Ringer suggested teams may start to be demoralized before they even take the field against the Tigers:

Things got worse for the Hokies in the second quarter despite a 43-yard field goal by Joey Slye, as Clemson running back C.J. Fuller pounded his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown with 1:19 left in the half.

Clemson appeared poised to run away with the game, prompting FS1 contributor Todd Fuhrman to marvel at the fact Auburn was able to play Clemson so tough earlier in the season:

The Tigers entered the locker room with a 17-3 lead, and FS1's Colin Cowherd compared them to Alabama, much like Sherman:

Feaster found pay dirt once again in the third quarter when he scored from one yard out to help extend Clemson's lead to 24-3.

ESPN's David Pollack noted some pundits doubted Clemson entering the season after it lost so many key players to the NFL draft, and scoffed at the idea:

The Hokies cut the lead to 14 one minute into the fourth quarter when freshman wide receiver Sean Savoy ran for a two-yard score.

ESPN's David Hale credited Virginia Tech for hanging in there but noted it still wasn't a competitive game:

Clemson essentially put the game away a few minutes after Savoy's touchdown when Clemson senior linebacker Dorian O'Daniel intercepted freshman quarterback Josh Jackson and returned it 22 yards for a score.

Jackson struggled in his toughest test to date, throwing for 251 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while rushing for just 13 yards on nine carries.

Although Jackson padded his stats with a 30-yard scoring strike to Savoy with 1:32 left, it was merely cosmetic in nature.

Despite getting out-gained 342-332, Clemson was in control from start to finish and did little to disprove the notion it is one of the two best teams in the country.

ESPN's Dave Pasch is among the many expecting to see the same national championship game for the third year in a row:

The season is far from over, but Saturday's contest may have been the biggest test remaining on Clemson's schedule besides the ACC Championship Game.

None of Clemson's remaining opponents are ranked, although November clashes with Florida State and South Carolina could prove problematic.

As for Virginia Tech, its College Football Playoff hopes may still be alive, as an undefeated finish to the regular season could earn it another crack at Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

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