Following 1903, eleven Clemson teams have come to Georgia Tech undefeated and they all left it with a loss. This past Thursday night, Clemson brought its 12th undefeated team into Bobby Dodd Stadium. However, this time these Tigers left undefeated.
Third-ranked Clemson improved to 4-0 on the 2016 season with an impressive 26-7 victory over the previously undefeated Yellow Jackets. From the opening snap, when running back Wayne Gallman ran for five yards, the Tigers dominated the game on both sides of the ball.
Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) opened the game with well-executed 75-yard drive, which quarterback Deshaun Watson capped with a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Then the defense responded with a quick three-and-out on Tech’s first series.
By the end of the first half, the Tigers had 347 yards, while Georgia Tech had 22 and the score was 23-0.
“Our guys were locked in, and played very well,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “The first half, outside of a couple of miscues, it was just a dominant performance. I think they had 22 yards at the half on 21 plays, and offensively, man, we ran 56 plays and 350 something yards. It was just a thing of beauty.”
It was beautiful.
Watson completed 32-of-48 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Ray Ray McCloud continues to become a playmaker for the Tigers with eight catches for 101 yards.
On defense, Clemson held Tech’s triple-option to under 100 yards rushing for a second straight year, as the Yellow Jackets managed just 95 yards on 38 carries. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel led the way with nine tackles, including two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a sack.
The Tigers finished the game with three sacks overall.
“It was just a dominant performance, especially from our guys up front,” Swinney said. “That’s where it all starts. I can’t tell you how proud I am of those guys.”
Swinney admitted the offense still has a couple of things it still has to clean up. Williams ran the wrong route on a play that resulted in an interception. Deon Cain dropped a touchdown pass and Watson overthrew McCloud and Diondre Overton on what would have been sure touchdowns.
But, the Tigers still managed 24 first downs, had 442 total yards and were 10 of 18 on third down.
“Ray Ray just continues to have dominant performances. We made some big plays on some big third downs. (Jordan) Leggett got going tonight and had a big touchdown catch. Mike had some big plays, and kind of the twelfth-man, if you will, was Cornell Powell.”
Powell, a true freshman, had five catches for 44 yards in his first ACC road game.
“We talked about that coming into this game. There is probably going to be somebody that we are not expecting … I know it was just one play, but there was a third-down play in the first half where it was kind of a low ball and he makes a difficult catch. He made a difficult catch look routine and that is what good receivers do. You make your quarterback right. It was just a simple play.”
And the Tigers made it look like a simple win. Though coming to Atlanta in the past has been anything, but simple. However, none of those teams from the past were like this Clemson team, and that’s why the Tigers are still undefeated coming out of Atlanta.