Here’s the good news for Georgia Tech fans: The Yellow Jackets aren’t likely to play another team as talented as No. 5 Clemson for the rest of the season.
That’s about all the solace the Yellow Jackets can take after the 26-7 beatdown that Clemson applied Thursday night on national television.
Clemson dominated on offense, running and throwing at will, and imposed its will on the Georgia Tech defense. And while this game doesn’t ruin the season for the Yellow Jackets, it certainly clouds the bright prospects for the rest of the season.
“I’m very disappointed with our performance,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “It comes back to me. I’ll take credit for some of it. Offensively the first half was embarrassing. That was ridiculous.”
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Georgia Tech (3-1) was limited to 95 yards rush, 2.5 yards per carry, and threw for 138 yards. The Yellow Jackets had only 22 total yards in the first half.
Clemson (4-0) rushed for 148 yards and threw for 304. The Tigers ran 82 plays, 30 more than Georgia Tech.
“They’ve got some good players, but it didn’t seem like we could get in their way,” Johnson said. “We tried to run block, side release the tackles, they can’t touch the linebackers, they just dodge them. We kept getting behind, and we couldn’t pass protect enough to throw the ball.”
Five who mattered
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson: Watson was extremely efficient, especially in the first half. The senior wound up completing 32-of-48 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 36 yards.
Clemson receiver Ray-Ray McCloud: He got the game started right by running for 17 yards on a reverse on the first possession. He caught a game-high eight passes for 101 yards.
Georgia Tech B-back Dedrick Mills: Mills finally got things going in the second half. The freshman carried 16 times for 75 yards and scored the Yellow Jackets’ only touchdown.
Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel: O’Daniel seemed to be around the ball all night. He had nine tackles, two for loss, and one of three sacks recorded by the Tigers.
Georgia Tech cornerback Lawrence Austin: Led the team with a career-best 12 tackles, seven of them solo. He made a good play to knock away a deep ball and save a touchdown.
Georgia Tech won the coin flip and opted to play defense. OK, the Tigers said, before they went 75 yards in nine plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. Watson set the pace by going 5-for-5 for 46 yards and throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.
Inability to get Clemson off the field: The Georgia Tech defense could not do enough to keep Clemson off the field in the first half. The Tigers ran 56 plays, kept the ball for 18:54, amassed 347 yards of total offense and converted 9-of-12 third downs.
Too quick for J.T.: The Clemson defense was too big and too quick. The Tigers had an answer for Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas every time he handled the ball. Thomas had a frustrating night with 10 carries for minus-25 yards rushing. He completed 4-for-13 passes for 29 yards and was sacked three times.
Offensive woes for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets went three-and-out on their first two possessions. They finally converted a third down late in the first quarter thanks to a pass interference penalty. Georgia Tech was able to get some tough yards on the inside but had no luck springing their A-backs on the outside.
Special teams do OK: At least the Yellow Jackets can take some consolation in the fact that their special teams held their own. Punter Ryan Rodwell did his part with a 39.0-yard average on eight punts, two of them downed inside the 20, one of them at the 1.
At least they scored: It wasn’t easy, but the Yellow Jackets finally put some points on the board in the fourth quarter when Dedrick Mills scored a touchdown. They have now scored in 241 consecutive games, the seventh-longest streak in the nation. The last time Georgia Tech failed to score was 1997.
They said it
Johnson on his thoughts going into the half trailing 23-0: “What went through my head was get in at halftime and see if we could adjust. Wasn’t a whole lot of adjusting to do You’ve got to block guys. When you’re playing a good team and is athletic as they were on both sides of the ball, you can’t make mistakes. You can’t play behind the chains.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney: “The first half, outside of just a couple of miscues, was just a dominant performance. Offensively we ran 56 plays and had some 300 yards, and it was a thing of beauty.”
Thomas: “This wasn’t anything we haven’t seen, we just missed some opportunities. We can’t harp on the loss, we just need to study the film and then get back at it to get better.”
Georgia Tech hosts Miami on Oct. 1. Clemson hosts Louisville on Oct. 1.