Clemson proved why they were the number one team in the nation as they stifled the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Death Valley 52-14.
From the start, it was evident that Thursday night’s matchup between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and top-ranked Clemson Tigers wasn’t going to be close. While the game started off with a great defensive play from the Yellow Jackets forcing an early three and out for the Clemson offense but ended in heartbreak as the punt was muffed by Juanyeah Thomas and recovered by the Tigers at the Georgia Tech fifteen-yard line. A few plays later and Trevor Lawrence would rush for his first TD of the season to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. From there it would be all Clemson.
The second score for Clemson would come from Travis Etienne on a 90 yard rush on a simple draw play that completely fooled the defense. It was a play that the Yellow Jackets defense looked totally overmatched and shows just how much work has to be done. A fumble by true freshman Jamious Griffin in the red zone would allow Clemson just a few minutes to go up 21-0 in the second quarter, officially making it a route for the Tigers.
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The big play of the half for the Jackets would come from cornerback Tre Swilling who would pick off Trevor Lawrence, for the first time in 181 passing attempts to that point. An interception on a fourth-down rollout by Tobias Oliver, however, would end the Jackets scoring threat in the first half. It was a baffling throw and poor throw to say the least, an unacceptable turnover.
The half would end at 28-0 in favor of Clemson after a few clumsy possessions by both offenses would end with Lawrence hitting Tee Higgins for a 62-yard pass across the middle of the field.
The second half wouldn’t be much different than the first, after a three-and-out from the Jackets offense, Travis Etienne rushed for another touchdown on the day, to make it a 35-0 Clemson lead early in the third quarter. The Jackets would finally find paydirt a little later in the third quarter as Jordan Mason would pound it in from seven yards out. The rushing touchdown was set up by a nice pass from Tobias Oliver to Jerry Howard for 54-yards.
While the Jackets would finally get on the board, Clemson’s offense didn’t stop pounding and moving the ball with will for the remainder of the game. They would end up scoring two more times and at one point claimed a 49-7 lead over the Yellow Jackets.
The only other remaining highlight for the Yellow Jackets on Thursday night was a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass from James Graham to Ahmarean Brown in the fourth quarter that cut the Tigers lead to 35-points but Clemson would get the last score in the fourth when B.J Potter hit a 51-yard field goal to go up 52-14, ultimately meaning the Jackets failed to cover in their season opener.
Few things in this game can be called “successful” from a Georgia Tech standpoint, but there were bright spots in certain areas. James Graham looks like a playmaker, and Jordan Mason is running very physical. Tobias Oliver was probably the correct choice for the game plan tonight as the first half made it seem like the priority would be to run the ball. Whether or not that plan change remains to be seen and we will have more in-depth thoughts on how this game played out in future writings.