It was obvious going in that Virginia Tech had a small margin of error against Clemson. Three first half turnovers, a few bad calls by the officials, and a late interception proved too much to overcome as the Tigers pulled away for the 38-17 win. Today, we go over some big performers from the game.
Taylor is one of the leaders of Virginia Tech's defense and certainly played like it Saturday, especially in the second half. Taylor finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack after spending much of the last 30 minutes in Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd's face.
For much of the game, Taylor was blitzing off the edge and hurrying Boyd as much as possible. However, he wasn't going recklessly after the quarterback. Taylor also made numerous plays right at the edge of the offensive line when he read the read play to running back Andre Ellington or a sweep to wide receiver Sammy Watkins and held his ground. Being able to do that allowed Taylor to make the tackle before the speedsters could get to the perimeter or forced them to the inside where the Hokies had more help, which certainly prevented any huge plays on the ground by the Tigers.
Coming in, the Hokies had to be worried about playing Cole against this offense. He had struggled in space all year long and Clemson's offense survives because they get elite playmakers in space. However, Cole more than passed the test and had one of the bigger plays of the first half.
With Virginia Tech up 7-0, Cole slipped to the turf as Watkins glided in front of him. Luckily, Boyd overthrew the pass and the ball made a beeline to Cole's hands, even as he lay on his back. Throughout the rest of the game, Cole avoided any major mistakes and provided support near the line of scrimmage as well. He finished with five tackles.
3. Virginia Tech Defensive Line
The only way Virginia Tech was going to slow down the Clemson offense Saturday was if the defensive line had their best game of the year. After four quarters of Boyd getting harassed to the tune of four sacks and a combined 21 tackles from the linemen: mission accomplished.
Boyd left the game battered and beat up after being slung to the ground numerous times throughout the game and the Clemson offense was held to their second least amount of total yards ever under offensive coordinator Chad Morris. The 21 tackles by the defensive linemen were the most total by the group in any loss this season. Over the past six quarters, this group has played very good football.
Fuller finished with four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown; another efficient and effective performance for the senior wideout. Over the past several weeks, Virginia Tech has made a concerted effort to target Marcus Davis more often and for good reason.
Considering how reliable Fuller has been and effective he is going over the middle and picking up yards after the catch, it's probably time to make sure he gets more touches each game as well. He is clearly one of Tech's most reliable playmakers and there is no reason he shouldn't be getting thrown at more.
Sure, Thomas had quite a few throws he wishes he had back. However, he was the only reason Virginia Tech's offense went anywhere Saturday. The Hokies moved the ball on offense thanks to Thomas' arm (15 of 28, 207 yards) and his legs (21 carries, 99 yards).
The running backs didn't have much success, so the entire offense fell onto the shoulders of Thomas. If junior wide receiver Dyrell Roberts is able to run under the deep ball on the second play of the first half, it's a 71-yard touchdown and Thomas' day is suddenly infinitely better. However, you can't ignore the fact that when the Hokies needed to move the chains, letting Thomas make the play was the way to go most of the time on Saturday.