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Virginia Tech’s defense unravels in ACC championship game loss

Virginia Tech’s defense overcame a wave of injuries to its lineup this year, finishing the regular season as the ACC’s second-best unit despite losing three opening day starters. But in Saturday’s 38-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC championship game, Bud Foster’s crew lost one key player too many.

Cornerback Jayron Hosley suffered a stinger midway through the first quarter, and it showed in the second half as the Tigers offense attacked Virginia Tech’s secondary with great success.

Clemson scored three touchdowns in a span of 4 minutes 24 seconds during the third quarter, and the first two scores came when quarterback Tajh Boyd gouged the Hokies through the air.

First, it was tight end Dwayne Allen Tajh Boyd beating Hosley’s replacement, redshirt freshman Detrick Bonner Jayron Hosley, for an eight-yard touchdown catch. On the first play of Clemson’s next drive, Hokies cornerback Cris Hill bit hard on a double move by Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins and the result was a 51-yard touchdown drive.

Less than two minutes later, Clemson running back Andre Ellington burst through a hole for a 29-yard touchdown that left Virginia Tech’s normally stout defense to lick its wounds.

“They’ve got some excellent athletes, and when you’re missing a couple of your excellent athletes, it kind of adds up,” Coach Frank Beamer said.

“I don’t blame our preparation. . . . I think we were ready to play,” Beamer added. “It was just one of those things that just didn’t happen right. If you’ve been in athletics and you’ve been in games, sometimes it gets rolling like that, and it got rolling, and we didn’t do a good job of stopping it.”

Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who filled in at whip linebacker once again Saturday, admitted playing without Hosley cost the Hokies because “We had guys coming in that weren’t familiar with playing that side of the field.”

Clemson ended up gaining 457 yards of offense on the night as the Tigers also had their way with the Hokies on the ground. Clemson running back Andre Ellington finished with a game-high 125 rushing yards and the Tigers had 217 yards on the ground as a team.

Clemson’s 38 points are tied for the most Virginia Tech’s defense has given up since joining the ACC in 2004. The only bright side to all this is that the Hokies now have about three weeks to get healthy again.

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