Clemson defense swarms ‘Jackets
ATLANTA — Third-ranked Clemson may not have produced a shutout on Thursday night, but going on the road and holding Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense to 124 yards and seven points is impressive.
The Yellow Jackets finally got in the end zone on a Dedrick Mills two-yard run with 13:21 to play in the game, but that was all they got as the Tigers rolled to a 26-7 victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
The win marked Clemson’s first win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta in 13 years, snapping a five-game losing streak at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Though Tech (3-1, 1-1 ACC) took the air out of football with its six-minute scoring drive, the Clemson defense rose up after the Yellow Jackets defense got a stop when Van Smith intercepted a halfback option pass to set up Greg Huegel’s 47-yard field goal with 9:57 to play in the game. The kick gave Clemson a 26-7 lead at the time.
Clemson defense swarmed the ‘Jackets all night long. Quarterback Justin Thomas was never a factor in the game as the Tigers held him to minus-25 yards on the ground and 29 through the air.
The Tigers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) held Tech to 95 rushing yards. It was the second straight year Clemson held Tech to under 100 rushing yards. Last year, the Yellow Jackets had just 71 rushing yards. The Tigers’ defense had three sacks and had an interception as well.
From the opening snap, Clemson’s defense was harassing Thomas. Defensive end Christian Wilkins threw the Tech quarterback for a loss of four yards on the play. On the Yellow Jackets’ second possession, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins sacked Thomas for a seven-yard loss, while getting help from about four of his teammates.
Tech had just total 22 yards in the first 30 minutes of the game. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 25 yards in the first half. They were 1-for-6 on third down and completed just 2-of-7 passes for minus-three yards.
As for the offense, some wondered if Clemson could continue the rhythm it found in last week’s rout of S.C. State. The Tigers answered that on the game’s opening possession.
Clemson took the opening possession and drove 75 yards on nine plays. Deshaun Watson completed 5-of-5 passes for 46 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams in the right corner of the end zone.
Williams’ catch gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 11:25 to play in the first quarter. Watson finished the game 32 of 48 for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers had 442 total yards.
After the Clemson defense stuffed Tech on it opening possession, Watson led the Tigers on another long drive, but Williams stepped out of bounds on a possible touchdown pass, and then Watson over shot the junior on the next play.
Huegel missed a 27-yard field goal on the next play, but that did not stop Clemson’s momentum. Clemson got the ball back again, and went right down the field for a third straight possession.
Watson found Trevion Thompson for a 25-yard gain to the one-yard line and Wayne Gallman scored on the next play to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 2:26 to play in the first quarter.
Clemson took a 16-0 lead with 2:00 to play in the first half on a strange play. The Tigers were driving when Watson and Williams did not communicate on a first-and-15 from the Georgia Tech 16-yard line. The play was intercepted. The Tech defender took the ball out of the end zone and then Williams stripped him of the ball, which Tech recovered in the end zone.
The play was ruled a safety and the Tigers took a 16-0 lead.
After the safety, Clemson took the ensuing kick and drove the ball 72 yards on 10 plays as Watson hit tight end Jordan Leggett in the middle of the end zone with four seconds to play to up the score 23-0.
Leggett’s touchdown covered nine yards and was the first one of the season for the senior.