Down seven players due to the coronavirus and playing the No. 1 team in the nation, Virginia put up a good fight but was ultimately overwhelmed by the Clemson Tigers 41-23 on Saturday. The Tigers scored on four of their first five possessions to build up a lead the Cavaliers just could not overcome, giving Virginia its first loss of the season.
Moral victories don't mean all that much at this level, but you have to give credit to Virginia for making a game of it. They battled back every time Clemson looked like it was on the verge of breaking this game wide open.
Down 24-3, quarterback Brennan Armstrong neatly marched the team down the field with three big passes for a touchdown. After getting sacked on the first play of the drive, Armstong connected on passes of 22 yards, 27 yards and 23 yards in three straight plays to make it 24-10 just before the half ended.
On Virginia's first drive of the second half, Brennan threw an interception in the end zone. Instead of being a back-breaker, UVA gave up only a field goal, then the offense went 75 yards in nine plays capped off by a Keyaton Thompson touchdown catch to pull the Cavaliers to within 10.
Even with the game no longer in doubt late in the fourth quarter, Brennan again led the offense down the field 75 yards in 10 plays to make it 41-23.
Brennan would finish with 270 passing yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and an additional 89 yards on the ground.
There's no shame in getting crushed by Trevor Lawrence. He's the best quarterback in the country and that was on full display as he threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns with zero picks.
Considering how well Virginia battled throughout the game, had the Hoos gotten off to a better start, this one could have been on upset watch.
On the opening kickoff, Lyn-J Dixon returned it 52 yards to Virginia's 48-yard line. The defense held Clemson to a field goal, but the Cavaliers took a time out as they lined up for the kick. Special teams alone cost Virginia three points and a timeout just on the opening drive. A discombobulated Cavaliers team would end up taking all three timeouts for the first half in the first quarter.
Clemson would start its second drive on its own 10. On 3rd and 16 from the 4 with a chance to get off the field and get solid field position for the offense, Virginia failed to stop Lawrence from finding running back Travis Etienne for the 21-yard gain. Clemson would also convert on a 3rd and 12. The Tigers would not score on that drive, but they did enough to flip the field giving the Cavaliers the ball on their own 13 after a punt. It was also the only drive out of Clemson's first five in which the Tigers did not score.
Lawrence gets all the headlines, but don't forget how incredible Etienne is. He rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown, but did most of his damage as a pass-catcher, hauling in five passes for 114 yards and another touchdown.
Clemson Twitter had fun reminding everyone how incredible he is.
Etienne's big night put him in the record books as he tied Tim Tebow and Kenneth Dixon for the most career games scoring a touchdown.