ATLANTA — What is it about Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense that brings out the best in Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel?
“I just think my instincts just allow me to play fast,” O’Daniel said after the third-ranked Tigers beat Georgia Tech, 26-7, on Thursday night. “I have the see-ball, get-the-ball mentality. What ultimately helped, was understanding my key, trusting it and not trying to do the next man’s job.
“I really just focused in on that.”
In the three games O’Daniel has played against Georgia Tech in his career, including Thursday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium, he has recorded 27 tackles, two sacks and six tackles for loss. The junior has just 54 tackles against everyone else not named Georgia Tech.
“I can definitely say I had some confidence coming into this game,” he said. “Whether it was right, wrong or indifferent, I had good pressure coming into the game, and so I’m excited that I played pretty well.”
O’Daniel recorded his first sack of the season, and his first since the 2014 Georgia Tech game in Atlanta. He finished the game with nine tackles and two tackles for loss.
“Going into it, I was motivated to continue to keep making those plays,” O’Daniel said. “I went in there to have fun and not worry too much about what I did in the past. I just worried about my keys, my eyes and my assignments and I let the rest take care of itself.”
Clemson’s defense held Tech to 95 yards rushing and to 124 total yards, the lowest total in the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech.
This hasn’t happened in a while. Tonight marks the first time Clemson has left Grant Field with a perfect record since 1903. Previously, the Tigers lost their last 11 times when entering the game in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets with a perfect record.
Streak broken. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing skid in the series at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Clemson’s last win in Atlanta prior to Thursday came in 2003, when co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was a senior wide receiver for the Tigers.
Tech is good for two. Clemson scored a safety for the second straight year against Georgia Tech. In the 2015 game at Memorial Stadium, Jadar Johnson blocked a punt in the Tigers’ 43-24 win.
Getting it done. Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to a touchdown on their opening possession, making it nine straight over the course of Clemson’s last three games. The streak ended on a missed field goal on Clemson’s second possession.
Watson improved to 22-2 as a starter.
Back in the end zone, finally. Wide receiver Mike Williams scored his first touchdown of the season on a perfect four-yard fade from Watson on Clemson’s opening possession. It was his first score since the opening possession of the 2015 season, when he suffered a neck injury that forced him to miss the season.
He keeps getting better. Clemson wideout Ray-Ray McCloud posted the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, matching his previous best with eight catches Thursday.
Where have you been? Tight end Jordan Leggett entered the Georgia Tech game with just one catch, but the junior had four in the first half of play, including his first touchdown on a nine-yard strike from Watson. Leggett tied John McMakin (1969-71), Dwayne Allen (2009-11) and Brandon Ford (2009-12) for the Clemson tight end record with his 12th career touchdown catch.
Earning his playing time. Freshman wideout Cornell Powell caught a season-high five passes.
—Photo Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports