All week Clemson has heard about how the team has lost five straight at Georgia Tech and haven’t won in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets since 2003. If they paid close attention to some media members, they probably heard that Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney has never beaten his opposite number Paul Johnson there either.
Consider the message received — and corrected — by Clemson after a Thursday night victory over Georgia Tech that was not as close as the 26-7 final score indicated.
The Tigers gave the 1985 Chicago Bears a run for their money in the first half, limiting Tech’s triple option to just 22 total yards before heading to the locker room and kept things up in the second half by holding Georgia Tech under 100 yards rushing for the game. Freshman defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was disruptive from the first snap (a huge tackle for loss) and forced just about everything on the ground outside to his teammates. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel was even more impressive, flying all over the field on his way to a nine tackle and one sack night.
About the only positive on the night for the Yellow Jackets offense was freshman running back Dedrick Mills getting going for 75 yards and a score.
As impressive as Clemson’s defense was, the team’s offense wasn’t too far behind. Quarterback Deshuan Watson returned to his 2015 form in the first half after a slow start this season by throwing for 304 yards and two scores on the night. He did toss an ill-advised interception into the end zone following a miscommunication with a receiver but the play ended up as a safety for the Tigers after a miscue by Tech’s defense.
The win by Clemson sets up a massive top five clash next week at home with Louisville that very much could be for the ACC title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers seemed to take the foot off the gas in the second half, and had a few issues up front along the offensive line, but otherwise put together a second straight impressive victory.
Things will get much, much tougher next Saturday when they try to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals however but at least Clemson will head into that matchup with a few days of extra rest and will be fresh off their best defensive effort in a long time.