Saturday, October 29, 2011
Final: Georgia Tech 31, Clemson 17
By Heather Dinich
ATLANTA -- Another undefeated team went down, as No. 5 Clemson was humbled ATLANTA, Ga. -- Another undefeated team went down, as No. 5 Clemson was humbled by a Georgia Tech team that played its best game of the season. Here's a quick analysis of the upset in Bobby Dodd Stadium: 31-17 by a Georgia Tech team that played its best game of the season. Here's a quick analysis of the upset in Bobby Dodd Stadium:
How the game was won: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington led an offensive outburst that hadn't been seen in weeks, and Clemson's defense had no answer for it. The Tigers beat themselves with four turnovers, and Washington -- the game's leading rusher -- ran all over the Tigers. Without injured Clemson running back Andre Ellington in the game (ankle), the Tigers were missing an experienced blocker. Both Mike Bellamy and D.J. Howard, who started in place of Ellington, fumbled. Georgia Tech's defense had the better day and never let Clemson gain any momentum.
Turning point: With just less than 11 minutes remaining in the game, Clemson's defense got what could have been a game-changing interception, but on the following play, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw an interception in the end zone. Clemson was trailing 31-17 when Rashard Hall intercepted Washington and ran it back 26 yards, setting up the Tigers on the Georgia Tech 9-yard line. A touchdown would've put the comeback in reach, but Boyd threw the ball to Georgia Tech's Jemea Thomas, and it was a soul-sucking play for the Clemson sideline.
Player of the game: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington: He ran for 176 yards, and his 56-yard run in the third quarter set up a touchdown that gave the Jackets the 31-10 lead.
Unsung hero of the game: Safety Jemea Thomas: His interception in the end zone helped squash a potential comeback by Clemson, and he also had a tackle for loss, five tackles and two pass breakups. It was Thomas' first interception of the season, and he added another with 1:06 remaining in the game.
What Georgia Tech learned: The defense is better. All through this season, Georgia Tech's defense has shown a slim bit of improvement in the second year under coordinator Al Groh, but against Clemson, it took an important step and had arguably its most impressive performance of the season. This was against a Clemson offense that had scored more than 100 points in its past two games combined.
What Clemson learned: It's not ready to shake its infamous reputation just yet. Even some of the most loyal Clemson fans out there have been waiting for the one game where Clemson trips up against an opponent it is favored to beat. The Tigers' defense still hasn't figured out how to beat the spread option offense, and Georgia Tech will continue to be a problem for Clemson until it does.
What it means: The ACC's hopes at having a team play for the national title and/or having two teams play in BCS bowls this year are all but over. Even as an undefeated team, Clemson's chances were slim, but a loss to an unranked Georgia Tech team will likely keep the Tigers out of the national picture. It also means that the gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC no longer seems so wide.