The last time the Clemson football team beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was playing for the Tigers.
Then a graduate wide receiver, Elliott scored the first touchdown of the game — a 9-yard reception from Charlie Whitehurst — and finished with five receptions for 31 yards to help Clemson win 39-3 at Georgia Tech on Sept. 20, 2003.
Since then, Clemson has lost five games in a row against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“I actually had to steal that ball away from the DB to get credit for the touchdown,” Elliott said with a smile on Monday. “Obviously we’re aware of how long it’s been. … We’re reminded of that, but each year is a new team and a new opportunity.”
The Tigers haven’t just lost the last five games at Bobby Dodd Stadium, but they’ve lost in bitter fashion each time.
Two years ago, Watson tore his ACL on a rushing attempt on Clemson’s third drive of the game, and the team wasn’t the same afterward in a 28-6 loss.
In 2011, Georgia Tech handed a fifth-ranked Clemson team its first loss of the season following an 8-0 start.
In 2009, Clemson overcame a 24-point deficit and led by three early in the fourth quarter, only to eventually lose on a 36-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining.
In 2007, Clemson missed four field goals and had a blocked punt that set up the only touchdown of the game in Georgia Tech’s 13-3 victory.
And finally, in 2005, Clemson lost a defensive struggle by one point, 10-9.
In the five losses combined, Clemson turned the ball over 15 times.
What has made it so difficult for Clemson to have success at Georgia Tech?
“It’s always been back and forth with Georgia Tech,” Elliott said. “It’s a great rivalry. They step their game up, just like we step our game up. It’s one of the only inter-conference rivalries where we cross over every year and are going to play them.
“It’s a natural rivalry, a lot of guys from the state of Georgia, a lot of excitement and a neat little environment. It’s not a big environment, but they get loud, crank the music up and they’re always excited to play.”
Despite the outcomes of the aforementioned games, Elliott said Clemson isn’t going to let the losing streak define them. The coaching staff has mentioned the streak to the team, but it’s not something they’ve dwelled on.
“I think they know,” Elliot said of the team. “It was mentioned to them early, right at the beginning of fall camp, that we haven’t won in Georgia Tech in a long time. It was mentioned to them once briefly this week that hey, we haven’t won in a long time.”
“We have to go down there and create our own legacy,” he added.
Instead of making the streak a focus, Clemson is doing what it does each week, heading into the game on Thursday night — focusing on itself.
“We’re not focusing on (the streak) because we feel like as a program, and where we’re at, it’s about Clemson,” Elliott said. “Anybody that we play, we’re going to get their best, so it’s more to say let’s focus on us, let’s continue to improve on the things we need to improve upon, accentuate the positive, go forward and play our game.”