Dabo Swinney will not admit it, but crazy things happen when Clemson plays at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, the site of Thursday night’s encounter in Atlanta.
Since 2005, Clemson has found different ways to lose at Grant Field.
In 2005, Thomas Hunter did not line up properly on a James Davis’ touchdown run in the fourth quarter that would have given the Tigers the lead, instead they settled for a short field goal and lost the game, 10-9.
In 2007, Clemson drove down the field late in the game and scored on a touchdown pass to C.J. Spiller. However, tight end Michael Palmer was not on the field and the Tigers were again called for not having enough men on the line of scrimmage. They instead had to settle for a field goal, which kicker Mark Buchholz missed, one of three he missed that afternoon in a 13-3 loss.
In 2009, Clemson fell behind 24-0, only to rally back to take the lead before the Yellow Jackets got a last-second field goal to beat the Tigers, 30-27. Clemson had a chance to win the game before Tech’s winning field goal when quarterback Kyle Parker found wide receiver Jacoby Ford on a long pass down the far sideline, but offensive lineman Thomas Austin was called for holding and the play was nullified.
The Yellow Jackets got the ball back and went down the field for the game-winning score.
In 2011, when Clemson was among the best in the country at taking care of the football, the Tigers turned the football over an uncharacteristic four times in a 31-17 loss. The Tigers were 8-0 at the time and ranked No. 5 in the BCS standings.
Then there was two years ago, the Tigers were on a six-game winning streak and had Deshaun Watson back at quarterback after he missed four games due to a broken hand. With Clemson up 3-0 and driving for more, Watson tore his ACL when making a cut as he was about to walk into the end zone untouched.
Clemson lost the game 28-6.
That’s five games since Charlie Whitehurst and now co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott diced up the Yellow Jackets for a 39-3 Clemson victory in 2003. It’s a win that maybe woke up the ghost of the late Bobby Dodd, who was 15-1-1 against the Tigers on Grant Field.
“We might need to change our grits up or something,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Or maybe it is something as simple as taking care of the football.
“We want to end the streak. We pretty much are tired of hearing about it,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said. “We want to do what we can to put an end to the streak.”
In the Tigers’ five losses, they have turned the football over 15 times, including three times in its loss in 2014, a game in which the Tigers had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“Give them some credit, they beat us,” Swinney said. “They beat us and they have been the better team on that day. Period! The End! That’s all that matters.
“I know what happened in those games. We can sit here … I don’t care who we play. If we lose the turnover margin, you put yourself in jeopardy. If you give Georgia Tech extra possessions, you are in for a long night. They are very well coached. They have good players and take a lot of pride in what they do.”
And none of it has anything to do with ghosts, or does it?