Virginia Tech turned the ball over four times on Saturday, en route to a 38-17 loss at the hands of defending ACC champion Clemson.
"I thought our guys battled hard and I think we played a very good football team today," said Frank Beamer, head coach. "I think in the end it gets down to about four or five or six plays, a couple that we didn't make and a couple that they got points off of."
It was the Hokies’ third loss to the Tigers in the past two seasons. In each contest, Tech hasn’t been able to have any offensive success against a sub-par Clemson defense.
"They played well against us, and they had a couple plays that pushed us back," said quarterback Logan Thomas. "We kind of hurt ourselves by getting behind the chains and not even with the chains. We were digging ourselves out of a hole the whole third quarter."
Thomas looked good at times, despite throwing two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown. He also ran for a career-high 99 yards and a touchdown, anchoring a running game that struggled to consistently move the football.
Bud Foster’s defense impressed all day, holding an offense that averaged 525 yards per game coming in to a meager 295 yards.
"We just played with a lot of emotion," said Antone Exum. "We played with a lot of discipline. Guys were flying around making plays, tackling well, things like that. It was just a couple plays didn't go our way."
The controversy of the day came in the middle of the third quarter. The Tigers were leading 17-10 when Thomas was under heavy pressure on 3rd-and-8, but managed to get the pass off to a wide-open J.C. Coleman near the first down marker.
Thomas — who was standing straight up when he released the ball — was inexplicably ruled down by the officials, forcing the Hokies to punt.
"That's the first play (I've had like that)," Thomas said. "I think the momentum kind of changed for us right there. Instead of having a big play, we were called down for a sack."
Two plays later, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins caught a pass on a hitch route, and was tackled by Detrick Bonner when the ball came loose. Antone Exum recovered, but Watkins was ruled down.
Replay showed that the ball came out of Watkins’ hands before he hit the ground, but the ruling on the field stood.
The Tigers scored six plays later and never looked back.
"That's part of the game, and that's what (the referees) called," Beamer said. "That's what we'll live with."
Early in the fourth quarter it seemed as though the Hokies might mount a comeback. Down 31-10, Thomas marched the team 61 yards in just over a minute to cut the deficit to two touchdowns.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Tech got the ball back with 8:17 remaining in the game.
On 1st-and-10 from their own 37, the Hokies attempted a double pass, as Thomas threw a screen to Marcus Davis, who then attempted to throw across the field to Coleman — the ball was then fairly easily intercepted by Xavier Brewer.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd capped the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive.
Corey Fuller led the way for Tech’s receiving corps, snagging four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
The Hokies are off next week, but will retake the field on Thursday, Nov. 1 at Miami. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.