An upset wasn’t in the cards for the Virginia Cavaliers as they went into Death Valley and fell to No. 1 Clemson, 41-23. Third down conversions and turnovers were the difference in the game as the Tigers picked up yardage and put points on the board when Virginia gave them opportunities. Brennan Armstrong finished 24-for-43 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also added another 89 yards on the ground.
While no one will be happy with moral victories, there are certainly things to like from the Cavaliers in this game. Virginia’s offensive and defensive lines were the best on the field for a lot of the night, showing their experience and coordination. The Cavaliers got to Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence twice, and forced the Tigers into several third-and-long situations. Virginia also had just one penalty for 15 yards, while Clemson finished with eight for 65 yards.
Where Virginia struggled, however, were in those third down situations. Clemson finished 8-for-15 on third down — some of which were conversions of 10 yards or more — and built momentum by keeping drives alive. There’s no really “good” time to throw an interception, but Armstrong’s two picks set up good field position for Clemson and ended a promising scoring drive to start the second half.
Virginia played aggressively, but Clemson is just too big, too skilled, and too talented for the Cavaliers to match up with at this point. The Tigers only out-gained the Hoos 466-417, but Clemson scored on 7-of-12 drives while Virginia put points on the board on 4-of-11. To Virginia’s credit, the Cavaliers had just two three-and-outs against a talented Clemson defense.
Although the Cavaliers weren’t utterly dominated like some other teams that have played Clemson this season, the Tigers managed to churn along like the well-oiled machine they are as they built up a 24-10 halftime lead. Virginia found the end zone with 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter as Armstrong responded to a huge sack with three-straight completions of 20+ yards. Kemp, Davis Jr., and Jana all hauled in impressive catches, with Jana shaking his defender and striding into the end zone.
The Virginia defense did well forcing Clemson in to third down situations, with Clemson needing an average of 8.7 yards per third down faced. The Tigers, however, were able to convert 7-of-11 in the first half. Lawrence went 15-for-23 for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, and Etienne added 54 yards on 10 carries with one touchdown.
Armstrong had one interception, but had his touch down pass to Jana to end the first half as he went 8-for-19 for 129 yards over the first 30 minutes.
Virginia opened the second half with a promising drive, but Andrew Booth came up with an impossible-looking one-handed interception in the end zone for Clemson. The Tigers would get a field goal out of it, but the Cavaliers responded with a gorgeous touchdown drive to keep them within two scores. Armstrong picked up huge yardage with his legs to keep the drive alive, but found backup QB Keytaon Thompson for the touchdown reception to make it 27-17.
Clemson responded with their own touchdown drive as Virginia struggled to wrap up the Tigers’ shifty players.
Clemson added one more touchdown for good measure, and Poljan tacked on a score with 1:11 left in the game.
Next up, Virginia hosts NC State in a noon game on the ACC Network.