Georgia Tech kicked off a new era, a new beginning, a new coach with high hopes could have been the greatest shocker in College Football History. Imagine dethroning the defending National Champions as they unveiled their 2018 National Championship banner before the crew of college game day and a crowd of 79,118.
That would have been an unprecedented splash on the national scene. What a heck of- a- way to introduce your new coach. Then the game started awakening us from the dream. It rekindled briefly holding Clemson to a three and out on the opening drive. The nightmare started on Georgia Techs’ first opportunity with a muffed punt by Jalen Camp at the 15-yard line.
He looked up at the high sailing punt, started to stumble as if he lost the ball in the mystic of the Death Valley night lights. Gifting the #1 team in the country a short field wasn’t part of the strategic game plan. Of course, they did what they were supposed to do, score a touchdown to make them pay dearly.
All everything running back Travis Etienne tore off the left tackle made one move and blasted 90 yards down the sideline. Excuse me “that was a different level athlete” tying the longest run in Clemson history.
Georgia Tech Quarterback Tobias Oliver showed why he earned the starting role, in I formation he faked the ball to the running back pulled it out and matriculated 39 yards on a keeper. He played with great effort, but the Clemson defense was just too mighty. Tech forced 3rd and 10, but they had no answer for Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawerence each time the pocket broke down he moved the ball with his feet to extend the series.
At the top of the second quarter, a fumble on the exchange between Tobias Oliver and running back Jamious Griffin resulted in another gift for Clemson. On the next snap, Travis Etienne was standing in the endzone smiling as fireworks glared to celebrate the 21-0 lead.
Credit Coach Collins he tried to find a spark going for it on 4th and 1, but it was toppled. Tre Swilling picked off a Trevor Lawerence pass and ran it back 42 yards down to the 2-yard line. Lawerence went all out and made the touchdown-saving tackle. When asked about the aggressive tackle Dabo Swinney lamented “I talk to our guys all the time about that. I don’t expect to see perfection. I don’t expect to see the eye of the Tiger. I want to see the heart of a champion. He gave us a chance to play goal-line defense and get an interception by Denzel Johnson because of that effort. That kind of play sets the tone for everything that we do.”
The goal was accomplished; Georgia Tech was in striking distance. The Rambling Wreck was in business. But that darn Tiger forced a 4th and goal. Tobias Oliver rolled out with the option to run or pass; the ball was tipped and intercepted by Denzel Johnson. The Jackets couldn’t catch a break.
Collins said, “we had chances. We had 4th-and-1. We didn’t convert. We got down on the goal line, didn’t convert. Turnovers early hurt us. I think the story of the game was big plays”.
The back-breaker was a Trevor Lawerence 62 yard touchdown bomb to Tee Higgins that capped off a drive of 5 plays 94 yards. That was demoralizing; Tech had their biggest break of the game they couldn’t capitalize on it. Instead of digging out of the grave, they allowed the coffin to be slammed shut.
Jordan Mason ran hard for every inch but couldn’t find a crease anywhere. If you looked between the lines, you could pull out some positives, effort, willingness to fight, but when you are attempting to slay the giant, you have to be something extraordinary. Let’s call it a beat down that’s part of character building. Either way, burn the tape and tell your players those were superheroes and you get to play regular people next week. At the half, the score was 28-0 in favor of Clemson, but the time of possession favored Georgia Tech 15:09 Clemson 14:51.
The Tigers came out of their cage for the third quarter with the same intensity. Travis Etienne stutter-stepped behind a block ever so patiently then flashed into the open field to beat the lone defender scoring his third touchdown. It was for 48 yards. The drive was only 2 plays, 60 yards. He finished the game with 12 carries for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns with an average of 17.1 yards per touch in 2.5 quarters of play.
Trevor Lawerence finished 13/23/168 yards and two interceptions which were half of his total interceptions for last season (4). Tee Higgins led the way in receiving catching 4 passes for 98 yards. Georgia Tech finally got on the scoreboard at the 11:40 mark of the third quarter. It was an impressive drive consisting of 3 plays for 75 yards. Tobias Oliver hit Jerry Howard for a 54-yard pass to set it up for Jordan Mason to cross the goal line.
Clemson dominated with the victory 52-10. They outpaced Georgia Tech in all major categories 632 total yards of offense to 294 and Rushing 411 yards (most since 1957) to 157. Beyond the score, there were positives for the Yellow Jackets. Jordan Mason carried the ball 13 times for 72 yards. They only committed two fouls that cost them 10 yards any way you slice it that’s disciplined football. Perhaps the most impressive was the hug Head Coach Geoff Collins hugged each player as they exited the field. I don’t know what it was worth, but it was damn classy.
“There were 22 freshmen who played in the game, 11 true freshmen who played in the game, and we only have 11 seniors. I’m really proud of their contribution. We’re just going to continue to get better. I’m just proud of the way they fought and of the way they stuck together. Injuries piled up on special teams, but the guys kept rolling in, trying to give their all for each other” said Coach Collins.