With over 81,000 fans packing Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Tech beat conference rival Clemson on the road 21-17 in the seventy-third matchup between the two teams. With the win, Georgia Tech moves to 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the ACC, and 47-24-2 all time against the Tigers with Georgia Tech winning four of the last five games.
Clemson came into the game after an emotional week, which saw their Head Coach Tommy Bowden resign on Monday.
“Clemson played hard…I figured we would get their best shot and I think we got a good shot from them. I also figured we would get [Cullen Harper] and we did for most of the game,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
Eight turnovers were committed between the two teams throughout the game. Tech was able to intercept four passes on the day and recover two Clemson fumbles. Clemson, likewise, also recovered two fumbles. Only one of the turnovers forced by Tech led to points for the Jackets, which came in the first quarter after sophomore defensive back Dominique Reese intercepted a pass thrown by Clemson wide receiver Tyler Grisham. Georgia Tech intercepted passes off of three different Clemson players, with the other two being quarterbacks Willy Korn and Cullen Harper.
“We only got one turnover each of the last two weeks. I tell [the defense] that we need to get three a game. We are a little bit behind, but we made up some ground this week,” said Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack.
Sophomore B-back Jonathan Dwyer had his fifth game of the season with over a hundred yards rushing, racking up a team high of 109 yards. Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt had the second most rushing yards of any Tech player. Nesbitt also went five for 12 passing for 91 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had four receptions on the day for 56 yards with one touchdown.
With the only score of the first quarter coming off the interception by Reese, Georgia Tech entered the second quarter with a 7-0 lead over the Tigers. Clemson’s first fumble recovery of the game came with 10:59 left on the clock when Dwyer coughed up the ball. Reese was able to force a fumble on Clemson running back Jamie Harper, and sophomore defensive end Derrick Morgan recovered.
After Tech went for it on fourth down on the next series and failed to convert, Clemson got the ball at midfield. Clemson then drove the ball 27 yards, and place kicker Mark Buchholz for Clemson made a field goal. In the Jackets’ game against Clemson last year, Buchholz missed five field goals in the 13-3 Jacket victory.
On the next series, Tech drove 80 yards for a touchdown. The drive was capped off with a five yard touchdown by Nesbitt. With the touchdown, Nesbitt has five on the season, which leads the team. Dwyer trails Nesbitt by one touchdown. The Jackets went to half with a 14-3 lead.
“You can never play like the lead you have is safe in a game that was that close,” Nesbitt said.
The third quarter was a turbulent one for the Jackets. Tech got the ball at the beginning of the half, but after taking the ball 53 yards, Dwyer had his second fumble of day, which Clemson recovered on the George Tech 44-yardline. Four plays and 44 yards later, Clemson scored its first touchdown of the game off the 32-yard Cullen Harper pass. On the same play, senior cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels went out of the game with an apparent Hamstring injury.
On Clemson’s next possession, the Tigers drove eighty yards, which included three passes by Cullen Harper which combined for 58 yards. The touchdown gave Clemson a 17-14 lead which stood into the fourth quarter.
“I think we were running out of gas close to the end [of the game]. [Clemson] made some nice plays on offense…We had to do some rotating when Jahi got hurt to put Morgan [Burnett] out on cornerback. Then we switched back and put true freshman Rashaad Reid at corner and put Morgan [Burnett] back at safety,” Johnson said.
Tech’s defense kept Clemson pinned back inside its own 20 for Clemson’s first two possessions of the fourth quarter, In the series between the two defensive stands, Tech made an attempt at the end zone, but a well thrown pass by Nesbitt was dropped by Thomas in the end zone.
“I was disappointed after the first drop I had, but heading over to the sideline, they said it was on me to win the game, so I did what I had to do,” Thomas said.
Tech’s offense had a 60 yard ten play drive to the end zone to recapture the lead. The touchdown came on a 24-yard pass from Nesbitt to Thomas, and set the final score at 21-17.
With the win over Clemson, Tech was able to enter the first BCS poll of the season at No. 18. This is the first time the Jackets have been ranked in the BCS since the Dec. 3 poll in 2006.
The Jackets look to continue their success tomorrow against Virginia at Bobby Dodd Stadium.