CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as No. 21 Clemson routed No. 5 Virginia Tech 38-10 Saturday night to win its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 20 years.
The Tigers (10-3) clinched their first Orange Bowl berth since 1981, the year they won their only national championship. Clemson won’t be playing for a national title this season, but the victory was still sweet considering it had lost three of four games to close the regular season.
“We knocked down a lot of walls tonight,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Clemson became the only team to beat Virginia Tech (11-2) twice in the same season. The Tigers beat the Hokies 23-3 in Blacksburg, Va., on Oct. 1.
The second half was all Clemson as the Tigers scored three touchdowns on five plays in a span of 4:24 in the third quarter to break open a 10-10 tie at halftime.
After Virginia Tech went three-and-out on its first second half possession, Boyd capped a 10-play, 87-yard touchdown drive with his second touchdown pass of the game to tight end Dwayne Allen for a 17-10 lead.
On Clemson’s next play from scrimmage, wide receiver Sammy Watkins got behind the defense and hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Boyd – his 31st of the season, extending his own school record. Boyd completed 20 of 29 passes for 240 yards and was named the game’s most valuable player.
Andre Ellington, who ran for 125 yards, raced 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 31-10 lead.
“Our team, I could sense the confidence growing,” Swinney said. “I told them if you just put it together on offense, defense and special teams, it won’t be close, I don’t care who we play.”
Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson, the ACC’s player of the year, was a non-factor, held to 36 yards on 11 carries.
Late in the game, down 28 points, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas threw into the end zone and was picked off by Bashaun Breeland, who returned it 64 yards to set off a wild celebration. Clemson fans, sitting behind the team’s bench, began bombarding the field with oranges.
“It was one of those games where things didn’t happen right,” said Hokies coach Frank Beamer.