CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball knew
the Yellow Jackets were going to win even though they were down 10
with less than two minutes to go.
He just didn't know it would take a play that Georgia Tech fans
will likely call "The Snap" to set up the winning 11-yard
touchdown pass to freshman Calvin Johnson in a 28-24 victory over
Clemson (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 20 AP) on Saturday night.
With the clock ticking below 30 seconds, the Tigers (1-1, 1-1
Atlantic Coast Conference) only had to get off a punt from their
own 37 to all but seal the game. But Geoff Rigsby's snap never got
up in the air, skipping past punter Cole Chason, who just fell on
it at the Tigers' 11.
"Geoff hadn't done that in a year-and-a-half and it just
happened to happen tonight," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0) hustled their offense on the
field, with coach Chan Gailey telling them to get the ball to
"We couldn't give up a chance like that," Johnson said. "I
knew if they got it to me, I could catch it."
The freshman took off to the left sideline just over the goal
line and leaped over Justin Miller for his second touchdown catch
of the game with 11 seconds to go.
"Now the tables have turned, haven't they?" Ball said.
Ball, his left eye bruised, could smile after this one. He got
beat up worse last year, suffering through a miserable 19-of-42
performance in Georgia Tech's 39-3 loss to the Tigers.
On Saturday, Ball completed 20 of 36 passes for 251 yards and
four touchdowns. P.J. Daniels, the ACC's leading rusher last year,
ran for 103 yards on 24 carries after being held to just 34 yards
against the Tigers in 2003.
And Johnson gave the Yellow Jackets another game-breaker,
catching eight passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns.
"He has shown a lot of potential in practice, and he has made
plays like that in practice," Gailey said. "It was just a matter
of time when he would make them in a game."
But even after Johnson's catch, the game wasn't over. Airese
Currie returned the kickoff to the Georgia Tech 31 with 3 seconds
to go. But Charlie Whitehurst's pass to Kelvin Grant fell
incomplete as three Yellow Jackets swarmed the receiver in the end
It was the end to a crazy fourth quarter. The teams scored five
touchdowns in the last 8½ minutes. Georgia Tech scored three times
in the final 4:36.
Clemson appeared to seal the game on Kyle Browning's 54-yard
touchdown run straight up the middle untouched. It gave the Tigers
a 24-14 lead with just over three minutes to go and was the second
long touchdown run of the fourth quarter by a Tiger who hadn't run
the ball in the season opener.
On the sidelines, Ball rallied his offense.
"I told them not to quit," the sophomore said. "I told them
we were going to win. But I didn't know how."
First came a touchdown drive in less than 90 seconds ending with
Johnson's leaping catch in the right corner of the end zone. Then
came a defensive stand as the Yellow Jackets stopped Clemson twice
for no gain just a yard away from a game-winning first down.
Then came "The Snap."
"You may watch a lot of football in your life, but you may
never see anything like that," Gailey said. "I hope you enjoyed
it. I did."
The crazy ending spoiled what was a solid game for Whitehurst,
who was 20-of-43 for 275 yards. He said it hurt just as much as
Clemson's 45-17 loss to Wake Forest in 2003.
"We've had tough losses before," the junior said. "Wake
Forest was a tough one last year. But we didn't give up and we
won't give up now."
Grant and Currie each caught six passes for 80 yards.
Clemson appeared to have sealed the game twice in the fourth
quarter with two long touchdown runs by seldom-used tailbacks.
Just a few minutes before Browning's touchdown run, Reggie
Merriweather ran 62 yards for a score, bolting untouched through
another big hole on third-and-1 to put Clemson ahead 17-7.
But Ball came back with a lightning-quick drive that ended with
a 19-yard scoring pass to Levon Thomas with 4½ minutes to go.
"I thought we were just going to stop them and win it then,"
Instead it took a bad snap and a nice catch.
"That was crazy, wasn't it?" Ball said. "You'll never see
another game like it again."