Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:38 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Streaks, trends, and traditions. These things did not matter to a young Clemson team as they rode an explosive third quarter to a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech for their first ACC Championship since 1991.
After both teams finished an evenly played first half, the Tigers that emerged from the locker room after the break looked much more like the Tigers that knocked off three straight ranked opponents and was considered outside contenders for a BCS title.
Clemson's BCS dreams were crushed by losing three of their final four games in the regular season, but head coach Dabo Swinney will find plenty of consolation in the first conference title in 20 years and his first BCS bowl berth as a head coach. The experts had the Tigers as underdogs against the defending champions, who entered the game in a very different manner riding a seven-game winning streak.
Tajh Boyd shook off the "phantom pressure" from the last month and hung in the pocket to complete 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, the Clemson offensive line only allowed Boyd to be sacked once. But Boyd wasn't the only the star shining bright in front of a sold-out crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins, both limited during Clemson's slump with nagging injuries, looked explosive as ever against Virginia Tech's defense. Ellington ran 20 times for 125 yards and a touchdown while Watkins added 54-yard touchdown reception of his own as part of his 155 all-purpose yards..
For Clemson - a team that plays at least 20 true or redshirt freshman on a weekly basis - Saturday's win didn't just end the school's conference title drought, it fired a warning shot across the bow of the Frank Beamer ACC Dynasty. The Hokies have appeared in five ACC Championship Games since the conference began holding the event in 2005. A Virginia Tech win would have been their fourth in five years, and third time defeating an opponent from earlier in the season.
But Saturday didn't feel like 2007, 2008, or 2010 for Virginia Tech fans. It felt like 2005. Florida State entered that inaugural championship on a three-game losing streak, and all the momentum was thought to be with the one-loss Hokies who had just arrived to crash the ACC's party. But after entering halftime tied, the Seminoles outscored Clemson 24-0 in the third quarter on the way to a decisive 27-22 victory. This time it was another longtime ACC member, Clemson, who started the second half with three straight scores on offense and three straight three-and-outs on defense. But the Tigers never let the Hokies get back into the game, and kept the pressure coming until the Oranges came raining down from the Orange-clad Tigers fans who stayed to savor every last moment.
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Tags: ACC, ACC Championship, ACC Championship Game, ACC Preview, ACC title game, Andre Ellington, Bud Foster, Chad Morris, Chad Morris, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Clemson, D.J. Howard, Dabo Swinney, David Wilson, DeAndre Hopkins, Frank Beamer, Kevin Steele, Logan Thomas, Mike Bellamy, Mike O'Cain, Phillip Price, Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sammy Watkins, South Carolina, Tajh Boyd, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech