Top-ranked Clemson leads Georgia Tech, 28-0, at halftime of the two teams’ season opener Thursday night at Death Valley.
Junior running back Travis Etienne paced the Tigers offensively with a pair of touchdowns on the ground, including a record 90-yard rushing score in the first quarter, finishing the first half with 145 yards on 10 carries.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets helped Clemson’s cause with three turnovers, two on offense and one on special teams. The Tigers allowed 107 yards rushing yards to Tech’s new-look spread attack but held the Jackets to 118 total yards of offense.
Trevor Lawrence went 12-of-22 passing for 148 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions. He also rushed for a score. Tee Higgins, who caught the touchdown strike from Lawrence, had 98 yards on four receptions.
Clemson began the game with a three-and-out on its opening drive, but a muffed punt by Tech’s Juanyeh Thomas was recovered by Baylon Spector at Tech’s 16-yard line. Five plays later, Lawrence scampered into the end zone from 6 yards out to give the Tigers a 7-0 edge at the 11:52 mark of the first quarter.
On Clemson’s next possession, Tech’s Thomas forced Etienne to fumble, and the ball was recovered by the Jackets’ Justice Dingle at Clemson’s 41-yard line.
However, following a defensive stand by Clemson, Etienne more than made up for his miscue, taking a delayed handoff 90 yards for a touchdown that extended the Tigers’ lead to 14-0 at the 5:39 mark of the first quarter. It tied the longest run in school history, matching 90-yard runs by Banks McFadden (1939 vs. Presbyterian) and Buck George (1951 at Furman).
Georgia Tech fumbled again early in the second quarter, this time on a bad handoff exchange. Freshman running back Jamious Griffin lost the ball, which was jumped on by Xavier Kelly at the Tech 14-yard line.
One play later, Etienne found the end zone from 14 yards out to push Clemson’s lead to 21-0 with 12:45 to play in the opening half.
Midway through the second quarter, a pass from Lawrence was picked off by Tre Swilling and returned to Clemson’s 2-yard line. But the Tiger defense did not budge at the goal line, coming up with a big defensive stand capped by a Denzel Johnson interception of Tech quarterback Tobias Oliver.
Lawrence quickly atoned for his error, completing a 62-yard deep ball to Higgins to end a five-play, 94-yard drive and provide the 28-0 halftime margin. The first half ended on Lawrence’s second interception that was picked off by Kaleb Oliver.
Tech’s Tobias Oliver completed only 2-of-7 passes for 11 yards, though he led the Jackets with 61 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Clemson finished the first half with 339 total yards of offense while averaging 8.7 yards per play.
Defensively, the Tigers recorded one sack and four tackles for loss. Linebacker Chad Smith had a big first half with six total tackles including a tackle for loss and forced fumble.
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