When asked if he knew that Clemson’s last regular-season loss occurred at Georgia Tech, quarterback Deshaun Watson was a little surprised and said, “I didn’t even realize that.”
Clemson has won 17 straight regular-season games since that November afternoon in Atlanta, and 20 of their last 21 games overall.
Of course it was a day that’s easy for the third-ranked Tigers and their fans to forget considering all that happened that afternoon. Playing in front of hundreds of people from his nearby hometown of Gainesville, Georgia, Watson went down with a knee injury on the third drive of the game and from there Clemson fell apart as the Yellow Jackets won, 28-6.
Now Watson, along with several other players from the Peach State, including running back Wayne Gallman, return to the scene of the crime tonight, Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Tigers have not won at Georgia Tech since 2003, a string of five straight defeats at the nation’s oldest college campus stadium.
“I just look at as the next game. It’s Georgia Tech. We have not won down there in a while. It’s time to change that,” said Gallman, who grew up in nearby Loganville.
Like Watson, Gallman plans to have many family, friends and old teammates watching him tonight from the stands. It’s a nice homecoming for all the Georgia players, but none of that will matter if the Tigers leave Atlanta with another loss.
“It really is a challenge going down there,” Gallman said. “(The coaches) have really communicated to us that this is important that we need to prepare and be ready for them.”
Gallman said the coaches have told the team they need to have the mind right when going down to Atlanta, and simply just play their game. They want them to have fun and to play loose.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke to the team before training camp began about Georgia Tech and how winning this game was one of the team’s goals this year.
“It is going to be a challenge for us. We know that,” Watson said. “We have not won down there since 2003. It is a good challenge to go down there and break that (streak) and improve to 4-0.”
Watson said the coaches have not really said anything about the losing streak at Georgia Tech since that meeting and has been cautious not to hammer home how the Tigers have lost during the five-game losing streak.
“We know about all the crazy things that have happened there before, but if we do our job and play Clemson ball, everything else will take care of itself,” Watson said. “You don’t want to hammer down too much on the past. It’s 2016 and that was in 2003. That was 13 years ago. We can’t live in the past. We have to worry about the present and what we are doing now.”