Late in the game, down 28 points, Thomas threw into the end zone and was picked off by Bashaud 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 great to see that happen," said Allen, who set a Clemson record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end. "This is what we worked for."
Swinney said he was proud of the way his team bounced back after losing three games, including a baffling setback to North Carolina State, down the stretch.
"We were a team with the flu and we got some penicillin tonight," Swinney said.
It was one of those nights for the Hokies, who failed in their bid to win their fourth ACC title in five years.
Even when something went well for the Hokies, it quickly backfired.
After falling behind by 21, Jarrett Boykin hauled in a 29-yard pass from Thomas deep in Clemson territory. But Boykin was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when the spiked the ball, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Four plays later, the Hokies turned it over on downs.
Thomas' fumble proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come.
Thomas said this loss hurts more than the last defeat to Clemson "because our seniors don't deserve a loss like that. So I think that's why it hurts the most."
On their first offensive play of the game, Tigers linebacker Stephone Anthony jarred the ball loose from Thomas on a keeper and defensive end Andre Branch recovered at Virginia Tech 25.
It was Clemson's first takeaway in its last four games.
The Tigers capitalized three plays later on when Allen hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Boyd.
"It was one of those games where things didn't happen right," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.
Swinney said the Tigers turned in a defensive performance that would have made former Tigers defensive lineman Chester McClockton proud. McClockton, a member of Clemson's last ACC Championship team, passed away earlier this week.
"I thought it was ironic that he was No. 91 and we won our first championship since '91," Swinney said. "I'm happy how our players honored him tonight."
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