Georgia Tech wanted to test itself on a national stage. The Yellow Jackets got what they wanted in their Thursday night ESPN matchup against No. 5 Clemson, but didn’t find out what they’d hoped.
Sputtering offensively and sabotaged by an interception that turned into a safety, the Jackets saw their five-game home winning streak against the Tigers come to an end in a 26-7 defeat before a white-out crowd.
Tech (3-1 overall, 1-1 ACC) played one of the poorest offensive games of the Paul Johnson era, gaining just 124 yards, including only 22 in the first half. It broke the previous low for total offense, the 155 gained against Iowa in the Jackets’ 2010 Orange Bowl loss. The Jackets defense were overrun early, giving up touchdown drives of 75 yards and 62 yards on Clemson’s first three possessions. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s unit held its own against one of the most potent offenses in college football after that – giving up 10 points in the Tigers’ final 10 possessions – but it wasn’t enough on this evening.
Clemson (4-0, 1-0) got an unlikely lift late in the first half. With the score 14-0 in the Tigers favor, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was intercepted by cornerback Lance Austin in the end zone. With Tech getting the ball first after kickoff, it appeared for a moment that perhaps the turnover could help create some momentum going into halftime. However, Austin made the ill-fated decision to return the interception out of the end zone, but then had the ball knocked loose from his grasp when safety Corey Griffin bumped into him while trying to jump to avoid him. The ball rolled into the end zone, where Austin recovered for a safety.
Now down 16-0, Tech kicked the ball away and gave up a half-ending touchdown for a 23-0 halftime deficit.