— The Clemson defensive front was too deep, too physical and too fast for Georgia Tech on Saturday. Their prowess at the line frustrated and short-circuited the Yellow Jackets’ offense and allowed the No. 7 Tigers to roll to a 24-10 win at Memorial Stadium.
The Georgia Tech offense came into the game averaging 372.8 yards per game, the third-best total in the nation. But Clemson limited the Yellow Jackets to 198 yards on 43 carries. KirVonte Benson led the team with 129 yards, but 65 came on one run and 20 came on another.
Georgia Tech was held to 10 first downs and was 3-for-15 on third-down conversions. Eight times the Yellow Jackets went three-and-out. Clemson kept the ball for 31:15, winning the time of possession statistic that Georgia Tech normally dominates. Their inability to move the ball put extra strain on the defense, which made mistakes early but played well in the second half.
Clemson’s defense was credited with 11 tackles for loss, came up with four sacks and forced three fumbles.
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It was the third straight time Clemson has beaten Georgia Tech. The Tigers have won five of the last six meetings.
Three who mattered:
Georgia Tech running back Kirvonte Benson: The sophomore had 120 yards rushing at halftime and was the only player in positive numbers through two quarters. He finished with 129 yards on 16 carries. It was his fifth 100-yard game this season.
Georgia Tech punter Pressley Harvin III: The freshman had another great night punting the ball, especially under bad circumstances in the first half. He averaged 46.9 yards on nine kicks, with a long of 53 yards. The yards were the ninth-most in school history and the most by a Yellow Jacket since Durant Brooks had 453 yards on 10 punts in 2007.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant: He showed no ill effects of the sprained ankle suffered against Wake Forest or the concussion he sustained against Syracuse. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran 12 times for 67 yards.
Georgia Tech drove to the Clemson 4 yard line after Benson’s career-long 65-yard run – the longest run allowed by the Tigers this season. But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t punch it in and settled for a field goal. They went three-and-out on their next five possessions and trailed 21-3 at the half.
Long night for Marshall: Quarterback TaQuon Marshall entered the game as the ACC’s rushing leader, averaging 117.3 yards per game, but mustered only 23 yards on 15 carries. Marshall was 3-for-13 passing for 32 yards and was sacked four times.
Nothing on the outside: Clemson’s quickness denied the Yellow Jackets any opportunity to pitch the ball outside. Even when Marshall was able to run the play, the pitch man was usually covered. The Georgia Tech A-backs wound up with five carries for 2 yards.
Playing behind the chains: Georgia Tech had little success on first and second down and too often had long yardage on third down. They faced third-and-8 or more on six occasions.
The rain didn’t help: A hard rain opened up over Clemson’s Memorial Stadium about an hour prior to kickoff and left the field soaked. There were not visible puddles, but more than one punt and incomplete pass landed on the turf with a splash.
The family tree: Clemson’s Milan Richard caught his first career touchdown pass in the second quarter, a 20-yarder. Richard’s uncle is former Georgia great and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
About the postseason: With two conference losses, the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2) face long odds of achieving their goal to reach the ACC Championship game. They still need two more wins to become bowl eligible.
They said it:
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on the offensive struggles: “Clearly it didn’t go the way we’d like. Clemson has a really good football team and we didn’t play very well. It comes back to me. I thought we were ready to play, but clearly we weren’t. We couldn’t win any one-on-one plays, any one-on-one blocks and really struggled offensively.”
Johnson on the lack of success on with the option: “We were probably less than 20 percent on option reads. We missed a lot of reads and when we did get them right, it was like popcorn. Some of the stuff was ridiculous.”
Johnson on the effect the rain had on the passing game: “We had a hard time the few times we tried to throw it, but they didn’t. I don’t think you can blame it on the weather. We’d rather play it in the clear with a quick field, but I’m sure they would too.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on his team’s overall effort: “Proud of how our team played. They attacked, attacked, attacked.”
Georgia Tech plays again on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Virginia.