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Clemson vs. Virginia: The Tigers Cruise Past the Cavaliers

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Virginia plays well against Clemson, but the Tigers come out on top 41-23.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson
The Tigers do their walk of champions before taking on the Virginia Cavaliers.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson hosted Virginia with about 19,000 fans in Death Valley. The number 1 ranked Tigers weren’t expected to be challenged by the Cavaliers, but we all know how crazy college football can be at times. The Tigers just needed to execute their game plans on offense and defense.

The Tigers received the opening kickoff and Lyn-J Dixon took it 53 yards out past midfield. Trevor Lawrence took a designed run down to the 33. A couple of running plays only netted 4 yards and on 3rd and 6, Lawrence couldn’t connect with Braden Galloway. B.T. Potter came out for the 47-yard FG attempt. He put it through the uprights to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead at 13:24 in the 1st quarter. Potter’s kickoff was caught in the end zone and Virginia started at the 25. Their first two passes fell incomplete but QB Brennan Armstrong picked up the 1st down on a run up the middle. The Cavaliers got some nice running from their backs and moved into Clemson territory at the 42. A pass that initially looked like a catch and fumble recovered by the Tigers was instead ruled incomplete. On 3rd & 10, good defense by CB Derrion Kendrick caused the pass to fall incomplete, forcing the punt. The ball rolled to the 8 yard line.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson
Trevor Lawrence throws a pass against Virginia.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Etienne rumbled for 9 on 1st down but pressure from a safety blitz on on 2nd down forced Lawrence to throw the ball away, and he was called for grounding, setting up 3rd & 16 from the 4. He then hit Etienne over the middle and Travis took it out to the 25 for the 1st down. A couple of plays later, the Tigers faced 3rd and long again. Frank Ladson pulled down a high pass for the 1st down. Two runs by Etienne and Dixon netted little and the Tigers faced 3rd & 11. Galloway couldn’t pull in the pass down the sideline due to good defense by the Cavaliers. Will Spiers’ punt was fair caught at the 12. A sack and a pass out to the 20 set up 3rd & 3. The pass was well defended by Mike Jones, forcing another punt.

Rodgers returned the punt to the Tiger 38. Etienne dragged a Virginia player down to the Cavalier 46 and Lawrence ran up the middle for 5 yards. Brannon Spector had a couple of catches, and a short Etienne run gave the Tigers 1st & 10 at the 24. Galloway picked up 5 on a flat route and Etienne moved it to the 11, setting up 3rd & 2. Etienne looked like he was going to be stopped for a loss, but instead showed tremendous balance getting by a couple of defenders for the TD. The Tigers led 10-0 with 22 seconds left in the 1st quarter. The Cavalier passing game started working and they moved into Clemson territory but the Tiger defense stiffened and forced a 4th & 1. The Cavs got a nice run to the edge to convert. They couldn’t get another 1st down though, and had to settle for a FG. Clemson led 10-3 with 9:38 left in the half.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson
Travis Etienne gets by a UVa defender to reach the end zone.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers started at the 25 and Lawrence connected with Amari Rodgers for 5 yards. Cornell Powell had a false start but Lawrence hit TE Davis Allen for 14. And incomplete pass and a short Etienne run set up 3rd & 9. Etienne took a a swing pass down to the Virginia 40. Dixon picked up 4 and an incomplete pass caused by pressure made it 3rd & 6. Lawrence scrambled down to the 22. Powell picked up 7 on a hitch, but Dixon committed an unnecessary roughness penalty. A couple of plays later on 3rd & long, Lawrence hit Rodgers in the back of the end zone. The Tigers had a 17-3 lead with 5:23 to go in the half. Virginia had one play and then Armstrong was picked off by Nolan Turner, and he returned it to the Cavalier 36.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson
The Tiger defense celebrates Nolan Turner’s inerception.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

A short run, a face mask penalty on Virginia and a Dixon run moved the ball to the 9. Rodgers took a hitch pass into the end zone. It was 24-3 Clemson with 3:25 to go in the half. The Cavaliers went 3 & out. The punt was fielded at the Tiger 29.

Two incompletions put the Tigers at 3rd & 10. Pressure on Lawrence again forced another interception and the Tigers punted. With 1:19 left, Virginia started at their 35. Bryan Bresee sacked Armstrong on 1st down but Armstrong then hit a receiver across the middle at midfield. A couple of passes later, Virginia was in the end zone. With 42 seconds to go in the half, the Tigers led 24-10. Clemson didn’t do much with their possession and the first half ended. At this point, the Tigers looked a little rusty with the execution on both sides of the ball.

Clemson kicked off to the Cavaliers, resulting in a touchback. A couple of good runs moved UVa out near midfield. A long pass put Virginia in the red zone, but on the next play Andrew Booth made a beautiful one-handed interception in the end zone. After a few plays, Etienne showed his great balance, nearly being stopped for a loss on a swing pass, and took off for 46 yards down to the Cavalier 29. Rodgers nearly had another TD catch on a tremendous effort but couldn’t quite hang on to it. The Tiger drive sputtered and Potter kicked another FG at 10:33 to make it 27-10. UVa then had a good drive, including a long run by Armstrong on 4th down. They ended up scoring on a throwback pass in the flat. Clemson was not looking like the best team in the country at this point. The score was 27-17 with 6:05 left in the 3rd quarter.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Clemson
UVa QB Brennan Armstrong runs for yardage against the Clemson defense.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

A kickoff out of bounds gave the Tiger offense the ball at the 35. Ladson had a couple of nice catch and runs to move the ball into Cavalier territory. Rodgers then had a nice catch and run to the 7. Etienne moved the ball to the 4 and then Lawrence hit him in the flat for the score. Clemson led 34-17 at the 3:54 mark. UVa started their drive well, including another 4th down conversion, but the Tigers ended it with a sack on 3rd & 6. The punt sailed out of the end zone.

After Brannon Spector had a nice catch and run for 15 yards, Clemson’s offense sputtered with Dixon dropping a pass for a sure 1st down on 3rd & long. Spiers’ punt rolled to the Cavalier 24. UVa had another good drive, seemingly running the ball at will on the Tiger defense. But Clemson eventually forced a 4th & 6, and this time the Cavaliers couldn’t convert it.

Etienne had a 27-yard catch and Galloway added a 12-yard catch. Then Lawrence made a nice option read and took it down to the Cavalier 2. Two plays later Chez Mellusi took it in. Clemson led 41-17 with 5:27 left in the game. UVa had another good drive, with yet another 4th down conversion, and got deep into the red zone against Tiger reserves. They did score with about a minute left, but missed the 2-point conversion to make the score 41-23. D.J. Uiagalelei came in at QB and had a couple of runs to finish off the clock.

My quick take on the game is that the Tigers have some work to do, especially on defense. Too many times I saw a UVa back appear to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but then he squirted loose for a solid gain. Another area of concern was a lack of pressure on the QB, or when they did get pressure, the QB somehow snuck out. There were also too many coverage lapses in the flats and too many penalties. What did you see that the Tigers need to work on? Let’s discuss it in the comments section below. Check back with us over the next few days for detailed reviews and previews of next week’s game in Death Valley against Miami. Thanks for stopping by and making us a part of your Clemson football experience.