For a long, nervous while, Clemson left the door wide open.
Virginia declined the invitation.
When the Tigers finally slammed the door, the Cavaliers had no key.
Eighth-ranked Clemson sprinted to a 35-7 halftime lead, and then breezed into its off-week with a 59-10 victory, sending Virginia reeling to its sixth straight setback Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
"We put all three phases together today," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "We've been so close to just dominating an opponent, but we hadn't been able to put it all together like we want. Offensively, we were just tremendous. Tajh (Boyd) was awesome, and Sammy Watkins was awesome. And we really settled in on the offensive line.
"We cleaned up our execution, which was one of the things we talked about coming into this game. It's November, and we feel like it's time for our best football and to set the tempo for a great finish."
Boyd and Watkins led the way by connecting for two long touchdowns. Boyd threw for 377 yards and three scores, including 169 yards on eight passes to Watkins. Meanwhile, the Tiger defense held the Cavaliers to 277 yards and turned three takeaways into 21 points.
The Cavaliers, after answering Clemson's early-strike Boyd-to-Watkins touchdown with a score of their own, trailed just 14-7 as the Tigers sputtered through four fruitless possessions during the middle of the first half.
Thanks to Clemson's defense, there was no price to pay.
The Tigers forced three three-and-outs in a four-possession span, and then, with the Cavaliers at midfield looking for a chance to tie, freshman safety Jayron Kearse gobbled up an overthrown pass by David Watford and returned it 38 yards for a first down at the Cavalier 33.
Clemson, which after scoring quick touchdowns on two of its first three possessions, had at that point suffered through an interception, two three-and-outs, and a fourth-down stop.
Suddenly, Chad Morris' offense regained its footing.
The Tigers converted a third-and-six with an eight-yard pass from Boyd to freshman tight end Jordan Leggett, and two plays later, Rod McDowell ran nine yards to the end zone after catching a short screen.
Clemson got the ball right back on another big defensive play by Kearse, who stripped the ball from a Virginia receiver at midfield.
Once again, the Tigers cashed in.
After Boyd dodged a bullet on a first-down throw into triple coverage, he handed the ball off to McDowell, who dashed 15 yards to the Virginia 35. Then, on a third-and-short play from the 25, McDowell took a handoff, found a hole behind Tyler Shatley, juked his way past blitzing defensive back Anthony Harris, and sprinted untouched to the end zone to put Clemson on top 28-7 with 1:29 left in the second quarter.
A quick three-and-out - the fourth of the half for the Clemson defense - gave the Tigers the ball back at their own 13 with 55 seconds left.
Clemson 59, Virginia 10
Tigers hit Hoos early and often
Clemson needed just 42 seconds to move the length of the field for another score, as Boyd reeled off six straight completions to five different receivers, and then walked the final yard into the end zone behind blocks by Brandon Thomas, David Beasley and Tyler Shatley.
"That was our offense at its best," said Swinney. "We cleaned up some things and settled down in our run game. The big change in the game was getting those two turnovers by Jayron, and the drive that we had just before the half in 55 seconds was the tempo-setter for the rest of the game."
The Tigers added to Virginia's misery on their first possession of the second half, when Boyd delivered a 96-yard touchdown strike to Watkins, who, for the second time in the game, ran past cornerback Tim Harris for a long-distance touchdown.
That was the end of the day for both Boyd and Watkins.
Boyd finished 24-of-29 passing for 377 yards and three touchdowns. He completed his first eight passes, missed four of his next six, and then completed 14 of his last 15.
Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly shared quarterback duties for the remainder of the game.
Kelly directed a 72-yard, six-play touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, capped by a 38-yard touchdown scamper on a quarterback draw.
The Tigers added to their lead with a 41-yard field goal by Ammon Lakip, and then scored their final points on a 10-yard touchdown run by D.J. Howard, set up by an interception and 14-yard return by freshman Korrin Wiggins.
"Defensively, the three turnovers were huge, and all by freshmen," Swinney said.
The Tigers rolled up 610 yards on 88 plays. In the end, Swinney cleared the bench, and everybody who made the trip played.
Venables 'proud' of Tiger defense
UVA held under 300 yards
Clemson claimed its eighth consecutive victory away from home, and the Tigers' winning margin was its largest in a road game since a 55-0 win at Virginia in 1984.
The Tigers finished their ACC road schedule unbeaten for the first time since 1995.
Clemson, now 8-1 for the third straight season, will be off next Saturday, with 10 days to prepare for its Thursday night ACC finale against Georgia Tech.
"The schedule sets up good for us now because we've got a little extra time to get healed up and healthy, and get ready to get back in the Valley and play our best football game," Swinney said. "We've got three days left.
"We'll be excited to play against Georgia Tech on Thursday night, and I know our crowd will be, too. We owe our crowd one, that's for sure."