Clemson 26, Georgia Tech 7: Game recap, stats

By The Sports Xchange   |   Updated Sept. 23, 2016 at 7:47 AM
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ATLANTA -- Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney is loving his team's toughness on the road.

Now he'll get the chance to see if the Tigers can perform likewise in a big game at home.

Fifth-ranked Clemson bolted to a 23-point halftime lead and held off Georgia Tech 26-7 on Thursday night, snapping a five-game losing streak against the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium, and setting up an ACC showdown against No. 3 Louisville on Oct. 1.

"We came here to be 4-0, and that's what we got done," said Swinney, whose team opened the season with a win at Auburn. "We didn't win the division tonight, but we got off to a good start. We've got four wins, two of them on the road at tough places. That says a little bit about the toughness of our guys. I love that."

It was the 19th regular-season triumph in a row for Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC), which had not won on Georgia Tech's home field since 2003.

The Tigers had lost 11 straight when entering a game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta with a perfect record, dating back to 1903.

"This is a place we haven't won at very much, so mission accomplished," said Swinney, who saw his team improve to 6-1 in Thursday night games since he became Clemson's coach midway through the 2008 season. "We're just happy to get out of here with a 'W.' "

Clemson's offense dominated early, but it was the Tigers' defense that owned the night.

Clemson held Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1) to 124 total yards, including 95 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets entered the game averaging 397.7 yards.

The Tigers kept quarterback Justin Thomas under pressure all night. He completed 4 of 13 passes for 29 yards and the Yellow Jackets converted 2 of 12 third-down attempts.

"Offensively the first half was embarrassing," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "That's ridiculous. They've got a good defensive football team, they've got some good players, but it didn't seem like we could get in their way."

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson posted his first 300-yard passing game of the season, completing 32 of 48 attempts for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud had eight receptions for a career-best 101 yards.

In the first half, it was all Clemson. The Tigers drove 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on their opening possession. Watson completed all five of his passes on the drive, which he capped with a 4-yard scoring toss to Mike Williams.

The Tigers extended to lead to 14-0 two possessions later with a 62-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Wayne Gallman, then scored on a rather unconventional safety.

Watson was intercepted in the end zone by Georgia Tech's Lance Austin, who brought the ball back out onto the field and was tackled by Williams at the 1-yard line before fumbling into the end zone. The fumble was recovered Tech, giving Clemson a safety and a 16-0 lead.

Clemson capped the first half by driving 72 yards for a 23-0 lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Jordan Leggett with 1:49 left in the first half.

Watson completed 24 of 35 passes for 262 yards in the first half, including seven completions for 90 yards to McCloud.

"The first half was just a thing of beauty," Swinney said.

The Yellow Jackets managed only 25 yards rushing and minus-3 through the air in the first half. Tech was limited to three first down in the first half and finished with 11.

"What was going through my head was, 'Let's try to get in at halftime and see if we can adjust,' " Johnson said. "When you're playing a good team as athletic as they are ... you can't make mistakes. You can't play behind the chains."

Georgia Tech has played 240 games without being shut out -- the seventh-longest active streak in the FBS -- and avoided that fate Thursday by driving 89 yards in 11 plays to score on a 2-yard run by running back Dedrick Mills with 13:21 left.

Mills, a freshman, led the Yellow Jackets with 75 yards rushing on 16 carries.

NOTES: LB Kendall Joseph leads Clemson with 27 tackles and five tackles for loss. ... QB Deshaun Watson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a school-record 20 consecutive games. ...DB Lawrence Austin led Georgia Tech with 12 tackles against Clemson, including seven solo stops. ... Fifth-year senior QB Justin Thomas has made 30 consecutive starts under center for the Yellow Jackets. ... B-back Dedrick Mills had three touchdown runs last week, becoming the first true freshman to score three TDs in a game in coach Paul Johnson's nine seasons.

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