CLEMSON, S.C. -- Virginia Tech's slow start was not in question. It's ability to hold on to the football and make good decisions was, as well as a few questionable officiating calls.
The Hokies got off to a great start offensively and defensively held Clemson in check through nearly three quarters, before the Tigers got moving and rolled to a 38-17 win.
"In the end, it comes down to about four, five or six plays, a couple that we didn't make and a couple that they got points off of or field position off of," coach Frank Beamer said. "The whole third quarter, we just needed to pick up some first downs there and we played on our side of the field. But I think the effort was great all the way around. I think we played hard. I think it gets down to four, five or six plays and that's the difference throughout."
Virginia Tech started off about as well as it could have hoped, sacking Tigers junior quarterback Tajh Boyd twice and forcing a three and out on the game's first possession. The Hokies capitalized with a seven play, 58-yard drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Corey Fuller on a slant.
With momentum seemingly going its way, Virginia Tech caught a break on the next drive as redshirt freshman safety Michael Cole, on his back, intercepted a Boyd pass that was tipped by junior wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Hokies took over at their own 13 yard-line and drove to Clemson's 19 yard line before redshirt freshman running back Michael Holmes gained just one yard then was stopped on fourth down.
The Tigers added a 27-yard field goal before Thomas was intercepted on the next series by senior safety Jonathan Meeks.
Clemson was forced to punt three plays later, but redshirt freshman Christian Reeves, who had no idea where the punt was in the air, touched the ball when it bounced. Clemson took advantage, driving to the one yard-line where Boyd lept over the pile in front of him and into the end zone for a touchdown.
Thomas was intercepted on Virginia Tech's ensuing drive, Meeks again getting the grab, this time returning it 74 yards for a touchdown.
"I think the ball just came out of his hands, kinda slipped up coming out of his hand," Beamer said.
The Hokies were then able to drive to the Tigers' 23 yard-line, where junior kicker Cody Journell hit a 40-yard field goal just before halftime.
Neither offense was able to do much in the third quarter, though there were a few questionable calls. Thomas was ruled down on an out pass to Coleman and what looked like a fumble by sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins was not called one.
Given those extra opportunities, Clemson took advantage as senior running back Andre Ellington weaved up the middle for 12 yards and a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 24-10 lead with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
Virginia Tech again went three and out, giving Clemson another short field at the Hokies' 47 yard-line. Three plays later, the Tigers got into the end zone again, as Hopkins hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass at the one yard-line and fell in for a touchdown and a 31-10.
The Virginia Tech offense didn't mail it in though. Thomas scrambled up the middle, untouched, for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:52 left in the game to cut into the deficit.
"That's what they were giving me," Thomas said. "A couple of times it was a designed pass and the defense just opened up and I was able to run through it, like on the touchdown run. That's exactly what happened, but I just had to take what they were giving me. A couple were designed, a couple weren't."
Any chance the Hokies had at making the game interesting though ended on their next drive, when Thomas threw a lateral to senior wide receiver Marcus Davis, who lofted a lazy pass towards Thomas off his back foot that was intercepted by Clemson.
"We ran it once in the first half and it looked good," Thomas said. "They actually zoned it out that time to where the corner just sat and didn't chase after the ball at all. He was just sitting there, so we can't do anything about it."
Boyd really put the game away with a one-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive for the final tally.
Virginia Tech, now 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the ACC has a bye next weekend, before traveling to Miami for a Thursday night, primetime game Nov. 1.