It hasn’t been the start Clemson fans were hoping for, but things are about to pick up for the Tigers. “We didn’t win the division tonight, but we got off to a good start”. “We tried to run block, side release the tackles, they can’t touch the linebackers, they just dodge them”.
The game is still more than a week away, but Hurricanes coach Mark Richt is already facing questions about his return to Georgia, which will come on October 1 when Miami travels to face Georgia Tech. A Clemson Football team stacked with talent again left Atlanta 8-1 and wondering what had just happened.
Clemson’s offense dominated early, but it was the Tigers’ defense that owned the night. On offense the Yellow Jackets are piling up better than 257 yards on the ground per game and have averaged 30 points per game. The Tigers had an answer for Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas every time he handled the ball.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney yells at an official in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Atlanta. You know, [wide receiver] Artavis [Scott] had his man beat, but [quarterback] DeShaun [Watson] couldn’t set, because the play was completely busted, and we had one other one where we had a chance for a touchdown, but we got sacked … nothing that’s not correctable.
Watson, who grew up in the sprawling suburbs north of Atlanta, bounced back from his injury to become one of college football’s most dynamic players last season, leading Clemson to 14 straight wins before a heartbreaking 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship games. In receiving, Ray-Ray McCloud had 60 yards and two touchdowns in four receptions while Mike Williams had 47 yards in four catches.
Still, that first half left a pretty big impression. The Tigers drove 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on their opening possession.
Late in the second quarter, Watson let a pass get away from him, and it was easily intercepted by Georgia Tech’s Lance Austin in the end zone. While the Jackets would get on the scoreboard in the second half, they never did run the ball effectively, gaining just 95 yards on 38 carries. Tech was limited to three first down in the first half and finished with 11.
Georgia Tech B-back Dedrick Mills: Mills finally got things going in the second half. “When you’re playing a good team as athletic as they are. you can’t make mistakes”.
Turns out sometimes you do play like you practice. The home team didn’t parlay the miss into anything, and Clemson moved ahead by two scores on its next try with a one-yard touchdown by Gallman. The slower the game’s pace, the more it plays into the Jackets’ favor. Without a balanced rushing attack, Watson is forced to throw the ball way more than he should – 48 passing attempts against Georgia Tech is a bit ridiculous.
“I thought that we were physical up front, even though the stats didn’t really show it”, Clemson center Jay Guillermo said.
The Tigers ran the clock out from there and clinched their first conference win of the season.