Georgia Tech went on the road to face the 6th ranked team in the nation and came away with only a 5 point loss. A score of 14-8 was certainly not one anybody expected. It was a sloppy slugfest with few plays for big gains but was paced by a two-hour delay due to weather in the area. The offensive lines of both teams struggled and Clemson really does seem to be hurting after the departure of Lawrence at QB.
The first quarter moved fast as both teams worked short-yardage passes and relied heavily on the ground game. Clemson would stall on the opening drive after DJ Uiagalelei sailed a pass over his receiver on third down. Tech wouldn’t perform much better on their drive and missed an opportunity to recover a muffed punt by Clemson. Clemson running back Will Shipley drove in the first touchdown carrying the ball on seven of the eight plays the following drive. Shipley was a force all night and would routinely need three to four tacklers to bring him down. Despite a poor performance by his line Shipley’s ability to churn out yardage was a difference-maker.
Clemson managed to gain momentum on the first drive of the second quarter but Tech’s defense stood tall in the red zone and forced a turnover on downs after a short shuttle pass to Shipley who was tackled by linebacker Eley. Running back Dontae Smith would add some flash with a 16-yard reception and has been electric when getting touches but doesn’t seem to be rotated in quite enough. He only received three carries on the night but averaged much higher with 8 yards a carry compared to the 2 by Gibbs and Yates.
Halftime would come a few seconds early with lightning in the area and Tech would finish the drive two hours later with a field goal after failing to convert two passes within ten yards of the goal line. Trailing still by a score of 7-3, Tech’s defense would do their part again and kill a Clemson drive by forcing a fumble on Uiagalelei. Unfortunately, a quick three-and-out would turn the ball back over who would put together their best drive of the night. A 12-play 68-yard ground and pound by Uiagalelei and Shipley would extend the Tiger’s lead and put the pressure on the Yellow Jackets to respond.
Tech would drive the field but wasted precious time in the process down two scores despite having all their time outs. It took 7 minutes and 16 plays but the pass protection was an issue all night and it cost here when Tech settled for a field goal to bring the score within 8 with only a minute to play.
Jude Kelley’s onside kick had to be the play of the night as he got a beautiful bounce to go over the top of the Clemson hands team for Tech to recover. Clemson assisted by roughing Yates on the first play of the drive. Yates then found Mcgowan for 22 yards and a couple of runs later would be just three yards shy of the goal line with a first down. A failure to generate any push from the line would end the drive as a shuttle pass to Deveney was blown up for no gain on fourth down.
A glimmer of hope would arise though as Clemson fumbled the next play and recovered the ball in the end zone for a safety. With just seconds remaining Jahmyr Gibbs would fair catch the kick which would set the offense up deep. It was too much for the time remaining and two plays later the upset bid would come to an end.
The defense looked much improved tonight despite some assistance from Clemson’s offensive line and overthrowing receivers. They did struggle to tackle Shipley but otherwise did a commendable job against the team that torched them last year. Offensively the O-line has to get better. Clemson was able to get pressure on Yates all night with just a few rushers. Yates is showing he is the QB for the job but needs help from his line. Gibbs too would benefit from better blocking and Mason is having trouble running between the tackles without a good push.
The other issue was with clock management at the end of the game. It worked out that the onside kick was recovered but the 7-minute drive left no room for error in which at least an increased tempo would have saved some time. Clemson didn’t handle tempo well either so the fact we got away from it then seemed perplexing.
This week feels better since Tech held close to what is usually an elite opponent but it seems some of Clemson’s shine is wearing off. A good performance against UNC in the Mercedes-Benz could validate the performance tonight.