As much as No. 6 Clemson’s offense struggled, it wasn’t the most bizarre part of the Tigers’ ACC opener against Georgia Tech on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The game featured two targeting calls, one of which was upheld, one score between the two teams after two quarters, a lightning delay that lasted almost two hours, and a late-game safety.
An ugly win, the Tigers (2-1) eked out the 14-8 victory over the Yellow Jackets to start conference play 1-0.
The Tigers were a 29-point favorite to win the contest.
Goal line stand
Georgia Tech hit a field goal late in the fourth quarter for the 14-6 score then recovered the onside kick. The Yellow Jackets picked up momentum after Clemson defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro was called for a roughing the passer penalty. The Yellow Jackets eventually got down to the Clemson 2-yard line and threatened to score. Clemson’s defense held strong, though, and didn’t give up the score. James Skalski combined efforts with Mario Goodrich for a TFL on third down to push the Yellow Jackets back to the 3. Skalski then had one last burst and held Dylan Denevey out of the end zone to turn the ball over on downs.
The Tigers’ defense had to save the day again after Tigers freshman running back Will Shipley fumbled the ball in the end zone for a safety and 14-8 score. Yellow Jackets quarterback Jordan Yates’ first pass following the ensuing kickoff fell incomplete. Bryan Bresee intercepted Yates’ last-second attempt as the clock hit 0:00, which was later called for an illegal pass penalty.
Lightning in Death Valley
The delay came at 5:03 p.m. with 32 seconds left in the first half. Georgia Tech had put together its first big drive, getting down to the Clemson 17 on third-and-two. During the same drive, Clemson sophomore linebacker Trenton Simpson was ejecting for targeting following a hit on Yellow Jackets quarterback Jordan Yates, which also moved the visitors down the field 15 yards down to the Clemson 43. Right after that, Tigers defensive tackles Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis dropped Yates, who was able to throw the incomplete pass instead of taking the sack.
Six plays later, the game was suspended due to lightning in the area. The original restart time was 5:33 p.m., but was extended until 6:55 p.m., lasting 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Tigers’ offensive struggles
Clemson had five series during the first half, but only scored on one. The Tigers rode freshman Will Shipley on the second drive of the game. It paid off with the running back crunching in a three-yard scoring run with 4:37 left in the opening quarter.
The Tigers came up empty on the next two drives, which included a turnover on downs at fourth-and-two at the Georgia Tech 19 at the 8:43 mark of the second quarter.
By the numbers
12: In three games played, Clemson’s defense has yet to give up a touchdown. Opposing offenses have only been able to score on special teams with a field goal apiece. Georgia Tech had two of 23 and 22 yards on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets threatened to score with less than 20 seconds in the game, only its third time in the red zone on the night, but sixth-year senior linebacker James Skalski came up with the goal-line stand at the 2-yard line.
2,000: Justyn Ross had a 13-yard catch from D.J. Uiagalelei in the fourth quarter, which put him over 2,000 career yards. The redshirt junior has started all three games this season after sitting out of the 2020 season due to surgery related to a congenital fusion in his spine.
13: LaVonta Bentley started in place of Baylon Spector at the Will linebacker spot and totaled team-leading 13 tackles, 2 1/2 for loss, and a quarterback sack for a Clemson defense that only allowed Georgia Tech to reach the red zone three times.
Clemson (2-1, 1-0) hits the road to play NC State in Raleigh, NC at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 25. The game will be broadcasted on either ABC or ESPN.