Third-ranked Clemson defeated Georgia Tech 26-7 on Thursday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Tigers improved to 4-0 (1-0 ACC), while the Yellow Jackets fell to 3-1 (1-1). Here is a look back at how Clemson earned the victory:
Clemson’s offense came out clicking at the beginning of the game, scoring 14 points in the first quarter to put Georgia Tech and its ball-control, triple-option offense in an uncomfortable position. Clemson’s offense lost its rhythm at times the rest of the game, but it didn’t matter in the end, as the Tigers were dominant defensively from start to finish. Clemson’s defense stymied Georgia Tech’s triple-option, limiting the Yellow Jackets to just seven points, 124 yards of total offense and 95 rushing yards.
In the end, Clemson’s offense still totaled 442 yards and 24 first downs. Clemson was 10-of-18 on third down, while Georgia Tech was 2-of-12.
What went right?
Deshaun Watson was right on this night. The junior went 32-of-48 passing for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 36 yards. Watson was consistently sharp throughout what was his best performance of the season.
What went wrong?
Clemson’s offensive line struggled against Georgia Tech’s front seven in the running game. While the unit was solid in pass protection, it struggled to open up lanes for running back Wayne Gallman, who had only 59 yards on 17 carries (3.5 average). Overall, Clemson rushed for just 138 yards and a touchdown on 34 attempts.
Just when Georgia Tech looked as though it might enter the locker room at halftime with at least a modicum of momentum, one of the Yellow Jackets’ best plays in the game turned into one of their worst. With Clemson in the red zone at the end of the first half, up 14-0, miscommunication between Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams resulted in an interception by Georgia Tech defensive back Lance Austin in the end zone. However, Austin ran the ball out of the end zone, fumbled it and then recovered his own fumble in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. Clemson got the ball back and took advantage with a touchdown pass from Watson to Jordan Leggett in the waning moments that gave the Tigers a 23-0 lead at halftime.