Georgia Tech is no longer running the triple-option offense under first-year head coach Geoff Collins, but Thursday night’s opener against Clemson was reminiscent of the Tigers’ past four matchups against the Yellow Jackets — a beatdown.
Clemson jumped out to a 35-0 lead behind star running back Travis Etienne and never looked back en route to a 52-14 victory at Death Valley.
Clemson has beaten Georgia Tech by at least 14 points each of the past five years and outscored the Yellow Jackets 194-76 during that time.
“Just really proud of our team,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “I mean, we played 90 guys. Certainly a lot that we can teach from and get better from. The guys were excited to play. It was a lot of fun to be able to play so many guys.”
Etienne outscored Georgia Tech by himself, kicking off his Heisman Trophy campaign with a career-high 205 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The junior put up the impressive numbers despite playing only through the first series of the second half.
Etienne had 181 yards on his final seven carries, after rushing for 24 yards with a fumble on his first five attempts.
“You might have a play where you didn’t have the desired result that you wanted. You put the ball on the ground,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “But then you’ve got to bounce back and you bounce back and have a 90-yard run.”
Swinney was unsure what to expect from Georgia Tech’s offense under Collins, and what the Tigers faced was a run-oriented attack that struggled to get going. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 157 yards on 45 attempts and completed less than 50 percent of their passes while using three quarterbacks.
Brent Venables’ defense played well with plenty of new faces, led by linebackers Isaiah Simmons, who had 10 tackles.
“Hats off to the (defense),” Swinney said. “We played a bunch of guys. Now we can give them the truth, and they can receive the truth. We’ve got to do better.”
Trevor Lawrence did more damage with his legs than his arm, rushing for 24 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore passed for 168 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions before leaving the game in the third quarter with the Tigers comfortably ahead.
Star of the game: Travis Etienne needed less than three quarters to easily earn this honor, rushing for a career-high 205 yards on only 12 carries.
Play of the game: Etienne did have a miscue, fumbling midway through the third quarter. He responded by rushing for a 90-yard touchdown on his next carry.
Stat of the game: 632 — Clemson finished with 632 yards of offense, with 411 of those coming on the ground.
Etienne is a legit Heisman candidate: Perhaps the most impressive thing about the junior’s performance is the numbers came after he got off to a slow start. Etienne’s first five carries went for 24 yards. His final seven carries went for 181.
Lawrence ready to use his legs: Clemson’s star quarterback looked smooth moving around in the pocket and also looked faster than he did a season ago. The sophomore finished with 24 rushing yards on three carries and had another long run called back for a hold.
There is still a lot to learn: While Clemson’s performance was impressive, it’s worth mentioning that the Yellow Jackets were completely overmatched. Georgia Tech has a ways to go from a talent standpoint, particularly on offense. We should learn a lot more about Clemson’s defense next week against Texas A&M.
Who: Texas A&M at Clemson
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC
Clemson Georgia Tech box score
CLE—Lawrence 6 run (Potter kick), 11:52
CLE—Etienne 90 run (Potter kick), 5:39
CLE—Etienne 14 run (Potter kick), 12:45
CLE—Higgins 62 pass from Lawrence (Potter kick), 4:34
CLE—Etienne 48 run (Potter kick), 12:42
GT—Mason 7 run (Wells kick), 11:40
CLE—Dixon 18 run (Potter kick), 8:08
CLE—Ladson 21 pass from Brice (Potter kick), 14:54
GT—A.Brown 28 pass from Graham (Wells kick), 10:33
CLE—FG Potter 51, 6:11
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Georgia Tech, Mason 13-72, T.Oliver 20-56, Howard 4-15, Graham 4-15, L.Johnson 1-1, Jam.Griffin 2-1, Cottrell 1-(minus 3). Clemson, Etienne 12-205, Dixon 8-64, Mellusi 6-36, Dukes 7-29, Lawrence 3-24, Phommachanh 5-21, Rencher 6-21, Brice 2-11.
PASSING—Georgia Tech, L.Johnson 0-2-0-0, T.Oliver 3-9-2-65, Graham 4-7-0-72. Clemson, Lawrence 13-23-2-168, Brice 5-7-0-53.
RECEIVING—Georgia Tech, Howard 2-57, Blancato 1-34, A.Brown 1-28, Carter 1-11, Tyler Davis 1-7, Mason 1-0. Clemson, Higgins 4-98, Ross 3-13, Dixon 1-22, Ladson 1-21, J.Lay 1-20, Powell 1-13, Ngata 1-12, Chalk 1-8, W.Swinney 1-4, Etienne 1-3, Overton 1-3, Br.Spector 1-3, Chase 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.