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Clemson vs. Georgia Tech: Tigers Sting the Yellow Jackets

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Tigers hit their rhythm on offense and the defense throttles the Yellow Jacket triple-option offense.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech
Ray-Ray McCloud runs the ball against Georgia Tech.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was smiling a lot this evening, and that is never a good thing for opposing offenses. Clemson out-played Georgia Tech in every aspect of the game in a 26-7 victory tonight in Atlanta. The Yellow Jacket triple option offense requires a defense to play very disciplined football, and many were concerned that the young Tiger defense might have trouble with an offense that many of them had never played against. Once again, the defense rose to the occasion, mostly playing very disciplined football.

The Tiger offense also had a good night, with Deshaun Watson throwing well, especially on the run, finishing 32 of 48 for 304 yards and two touchdowns. The offense got into a rhythm early and kept the Yellow Jacket defense on its heels most of the night. To show you how tough a night it was for them, they intercepted Watson in the end zone but ended up with a safety as the defender ran out of the end zone, collided with another defender, and fumbled the ball back into the end zone. Tech recovered the ball before the Tigers could pounce on it, resulting in the safety. It was that sort of night for them.

Personal efforts that impressed me were Dexter Lawrence (again), Ray-Ray McCloud (again), and Deshaun. Big Dex made a meal of the significantly smaller Tech linemen and was a consistent presence in the backfield. Ray-Ray had another solid game receiving and returning punts. Every time that young man gets his hands on the ball, you know he could end up in the end zone (with the ball from now on, I’m sure). And Deshaun had a very good night, running for 36 yards and mostly making good reads and throws. There is still a bit of a disconnect with Mike Williams at times, but I’m betting that will be ironed out in short order.

There are, of course, still some things that the Tigers need to work on. The big issue that jumped out at me was run blocking. The Tiger offensive line should have been able to push the Tech defensive line around more than they did. The inside running game was not very effective tonight, and it wasn’t because Wayne Gallman wasn’t doing his job. The line needs to step it up a bit in that area if the Tigers are to compete in the coming weeks against better defenses.

So, it was a good, solid win for the Tigers. The offense finally seemed to get a good run/pass balance going, and the defense shut down a tricky triple-option offense. STS will have in-depth coverage in the coming days of the Tigers’ first win over Tech in Atlanta since 2003, and previews of what they face next week as Louisville rolls into Death Valley for a prime time showdown with the Tigers that could end up being the game that decides the ACC Atlantic division champion.