ATLANTA– There is no true mercy rule in college football. Coaches can opt for a running clock, but that is about the only way to speed up a game. Georgia Tech needed the game to end at halftime on Saturday.
Georgia Tech played maybe the worst quarter of football in recent Yellow Jacket history spotting #1 Clemson 35 points after trailing 17-7 in the first quarter. Clemson took a 52-7 lead at the half and never looked back.
It was a tough day for second-year head coach Geoff Collins whose team set two dubious Tech modern records for the most points allowed (73 was 69) and largest margin of defeat (66 was 55) in Jacket history besting a Notre Dame game from 1977
“So first of all, hats off to Clemson, their number the one team in the country for reason,” Collins said. “They’re really, good players, really good coaches, so just a lot of respect for that program and that team. The margin of error, when you’re playing a team of that caliber, is razor-thin and I don’t think we closed the margin as much as I had hoped. We’d showed really strong glimpses of what we can be eight nights ago, against Louisville Friday night with a big conference win and I anticipated we prepared really well going into this game. With the margin of error when we have turnovers at inappropriate times, they are going capitalize on it.”
Defensive tackle Nyles Pinkney scores a touchdown for Clemson as a fullback one of three scores on the ground (David Platt/ACC Media Services)
Trevor Lawrence looked like the Heisman clubhouse leader with 391 yards and 5 touchdowns in the first half on 22 of 27 passing, but he did throw one interception to Zamari Walton.
“I was in man coverage and the guy went vertical and I just went up for the ball and came down with it. He was on the numbers and I knew he was going for the vertical route, that was just practice and preparation,” Walton said. “I did what I could (on the return) to try and help get some points on the board.”
The Tigers played four quarters in the game including their punter in their final offensive series. The four quarterbacks combined for 500 yards, seven touchdowns and just the one interception hitting on 33 of 49 pass attempts.
Clemson also ran it well with 171 yards on 39 carries and three touchdowns on the ground. Travis Etienne was held to just 44 yards on 11 carries though. That might be the lone bright spot for the defense.
Third downs remained an issue with the Tigers converting 9 of 17 and two fourth downs for 11 conversions.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle on third downs but we will get those done. We just got to really just got to stay strapped how we are on first and second, second down, as the third down we just got to toughen up and get those big stops.”
On the flip side, the Jackets just two third downs the entire game on 14 tries.
“First and foremost, just some matchup things (came into play on third downs),” Collins said. “But just making sure that we understand the situation understand what we need to be doing within the scheme. And I do think they had some good things, obviously offensively as well. But when we get in third down, we have to get off the field. And on the other side of the ball on third downs. You know, we weren’t good on that end as well. So that’s a huge point of emphasis.”
Jeff Sims fumbles a bad snap against Clemson (David Platt/ACC Media Services)
Jeff Sims meanwhile struggled throughout the game running for -23 yards on 13 carries as he was sacked four times, throwing for just 81 yards on 13 attempts with a pick and two fumbles lost. Eventually Tech turned to backup quarterback Jordan Yates who was even less effective against the Tigers backup defense. Yates was 0-1 passing with a sack and -5 yards rushing.
Jahmyr Gibbs had a respectable 67 yards rushing on 15 carries and three catches for 23 yards.
Wide receiver Jalen Camp caught Tech’s lone touchdown on a deep ball for a 59-yard score.
“The play was designed and we practiced it all week. Once AB came in motion that took the safety which left me one-on-one with the cornerback and my job was to leave them and give Jeff a big target,” Camp said.
Defensively there were not a lot of bright spots for the Jackets. Quez Jackson had a sack and two pass breakups at linebacker and Ja’Quon Griffin also got a sack from the defensive tackle position. Antwan Owens played his first game of the season with three tackles and a tackle for a loss at the defensive end spot.
“It is always good to see guys recover from whatever they have going on. Antwan is a good person and a good player and it is always fun to play next to him,” senior defensive tackle Djimon Brooks said of Owens return.
RUNNING UP THE SCORE?
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was very close to former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and those two played often close games and the Tigers if they were winning often pulled their foot off the gas in the second half. Swinney went hard the other way on Saturday using timeouts to score before the half already up 45-7 to push it to 52-7 and even with backups in, he threw the ball downfield and went for it on fourth downs twice late in the game. Collins took no issue with the aggressive late game management by the Clemson coach.
“I can’t I can’t worry about that, you know, I’ve heard coaches in the past complain about the other side doing whatever, I’m not going to be one of those guys,” Collins said when asked about Clemson maybe running up the score. “It is our job, regardless of who’s in the game, regardless of the situation to get stops. So we’re not going to worry about that. We’re not going to complain about that. You know, whatever another coaching staff needs to do that’s on them, we’ve got to worry about us. So that’s all I’m going to concern myself with, is those kinds of things. So but it’s a good point.”
The Tigers are battling for a playoff spot and often style points play a factor so that could also factor into what happened.
The Jackets travel to Boston College next week to face a surging Eagles program who are in the top half of the ACC through the early part of the season.
“I think it starts tomorrow coming in and watching film seeing the things that went wrong, cleaning up those things,” Camp said of how they’ll move forward.
Collins says he also thinks his young team has to learn how to handle success better.
“We’ve got to learn how to handle success. You know, we’re well-versed and I’ve said it a bunch worldwide, we are well-versed in handling setbacks, we are well-versed in learning from mistakes and building on them. But we’ve got to get better at handling success,” Collins said. “Handling accolades handling the pats on the back, that you get when you win by three scores in an ACC game eight days ago. You’ve got to put those, wipe those away. Those are things with the young football team that we’ve got to learn and we’ve got to learn them very quickly.”
The Eagles and Jackets kickoff at 4pm next Saturday.