Clemson hosted the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Military Appreciation Day and Veteran’s Day after last weekend’s much needed win over Notre Dame. First, on behalf of all of us at STS, let me say thank you to all of our veterans. We appreciate your service so much. The Tigers came in clearly favored and after a bit of a slow start, pulled away and beat the Yellow Jackets 42-21.
The Tigers kicked off and the defense forced a punt after a good 1st down run by Tech, The Tiger offense started slow and ended up with a 3 and out. On the next GT possession, the Tiger defense gave up a 9 yard run on first down, but a false start and a sack pushed GT back to a 3rd & 17 that they couldn’t convert. The punt was fielded at the Tiger 30 but a block in the back penalty gave Clemson the ball at the 20. The Tech defense had the Tigers’ number and forced another punt. Rather inexplicably, the Tigers ran a fake punt on 3rd and 17 deep in their own territory. They didn’t convert it. The Tiger defense fought valiantly but the Yellow Jackets scored to take the lead 7-0 at the 6:36 mark of the 1st quarter.
The Tiger offense finally woke up on their next drive, with some nice passes to Beaux Collins and Will Shipley, but the offensive line was having trouble keeping GT off Cade Klubnik. They did convert a 4th and 7 with a 20-yard pass to Collins. With 1st and goal from the 8, a couple of Phil Mafah runs, with no help from his line, pushed the ball to the 5 and Klubnik hit Collins in the end zone to tie the score 7-7 with 11:45 left in the half. The Tiger defence, led by Jeremiah Trotter’s sack, completely shut down the Yellow Jackets and they had to punt from their end zone. Hamp Greene returned it to the GT 42.
The offense sputtered a bit but Klubnik hit Jake Briningstool for a 6-yard gain on 4th and 4. Mafah had a good run and a catch to help move the Tigers into scoring position inside the 5. On 3rd and 2, Tyler Brown made a beautiful one-handed catch as he was falling backward to score. With a bit over 7 minutes left in the half, Clemson had their first lead 14-7. Tech gashed the interior of the Tiger DL for a 40-yard run at the start of their drive. The defense tightened up after that, assisted by a dropped pass that probably would have been a TD, and forced a punt. Greene fair caught it at the Tiger 8.
The offense looked sharp as runs by Shipley and catches by Brown and Adam Randall moved the ball into Tech territory. A sack by an unblocked Tech LB pushed the Tigers back to their 42. On 3rd and long, Klubnik scrambled to the GT 41 to set up 4th and 1. Shipley picked up 9 to move the chains. On the next play he took off on a 32-yard run to the end zone that was facilitated by two nice blocks on the inside. With about a minute left, Clemson led 21-7. It looked like Tech was going to run the clock out but an interception by Khalil Barnes gave Clemson a chance to add points right before halftime but the team’s kicking woes continued as they missed a 47-yard FG attempt.
Clemson got the ball to start the 2nd half and moved into GT territory but ended up at 4th and 11 and had to punt. There was quite a bit of discussion about a missed targeting call on a hit on Shipley. Others disagreed with me but I thought the officials also missed a targeting call on him in the NC State game. The Tiger defense forced a 3 and out and the offense started at the their 48.
A catch by Briningstool, a 17-yard run by Mafah, and a 13-yard catch by Brown moved the Tiger offense down to the GT 10 yard line. The offense had some momentum going. Runs by Shipley and Mafah moved the ball down to the 6. On 3rd down Klubnik hit Briningstool with a bullet of a throw to score. The Tigers led the Yellow Jackets 28-7 with 7:05 left in the quarter. The Tiger defense continued dominating the GT offense when they got the ball, including a sack by DeMonte Capehart, and after the punt the Tigers started their next drive at their 29.
The Tiger drive consisted of one play: an interception when Klubnik underthrew his receiver on a crossing route. After 4 plays, the Tiger defense returned the favor when Avieon Terrell made an interception. The Tigers moved into GT territory including a 36-yard run by Mafah but the drive stalled and they punted. GT took over at their 13. A couple of plays later, Clemson had another interception, this time by by Kylon Griffin gave them the ball at the GT 31. Four plays later Josh Sapp scored on a 13-yard throw from Klubnik. With just over 14 minutes left, Clemson had a commanding 35-7 lead.
Clemson’s defense appeared to stop the Yellow Jackets but pulled off a fake punt to keep their drive alive. It didn’t matter, though, as the Tigers got another interception, this time a pick-6 by Shelton Lewis. At just under 13 minutes left, Clemson led 42-7. Tech went tempo on their drive and moved efficiently down the field. With 10 minutes to go, the Yellow Jackets cut the Tiger lead to 42-14.
Clemson began substituting players on their drive, with Hunter Helms coming in at QB. On a 3rd and 16, he scrambled to pick up the 1st down. The drive stalled, in part because of penalties, and Tech took over at their 33. The Tiger defense, also playing reserves, allowed Tech to move down the field and into the red zone. A questionable pass interference penalty gave GT the ball inside the 5, but an offensive pass interference penalty pushed them back. But they ended up scoring anyway and with 1:49 left, Clemson led 42-21. The Tigers recovered the ensuing onside kick
The Tigers seem to be hitting their stride late in the season. Unfortunately, those early losses have really hurt them. It will be interesting to see if they can keep this winning streak going the next couple of weeks and raise their bowl stock. How do you feel about the state of the team at this point? Let us know in the comments below. See you next week.