Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd shakes off the tackle attempt of Georgia Tech's Euclid Cummings during the third quarter an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 47-31. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)
CLEMSON, S.C. -- True, the Georgia Tech defense didn't exactly distinguish itself again on Saturday. But it would be improper to lay the entire 47-31 loss to Clemson at the feet of the defense. The Tech offense and special teams deserve equal culpability.
Twice the Tech defense came away with turnovers in the second half, but the Yellow Jackets failed to convert either opportunity into points. The special teams botched a kickoff return that led to a safety and missed two field goals. So while Tech defense was mesh-like, it only gets partial blame for the team's third consecutive loss.
"Right now we've got to play close to perfect," said Tech coach Paul Johnson. "You've got to score more points. They've got a good football team. They've got some really good skilled players."
And that partially explains the 601 yards in total offense accrued by Clemson, the third straight week that Georgia Tech has allowed more than 500 yards in offense. But those numbers don't tell the whole story.
The biggest play of the game came on the kickoff following Clemson's drive that gave the Tigers a 38-31 lead. The kick landed short of return man Chris Milton and bounced up against him. Milton bobbled the ball and when he turned to run, he lost his footing and fell at the 1 yard line. That invigorated the 81,000 fans who poured into Death Valley and caused the sea of orange to get very loud.
The first down was a near disaster. Tevin Washington's pass was almost intercepted in the end zone by Corey Crawford.
The second down was a definite disaster. The pitch went left to A-Back Orwin Smith, who was smothered by Clemson defender Spencer Shuey for a safety. Suddenly it was a nine-point, two-possession game and things were grim.
"It's really frustrating," Johnson said. "You could play 10 years of football and never take a kickoff at the 1 and never have a safety and we had both. It shouldn't happen."
As Georgia Tech goes into its bye week, they face a serious problem. At 2-4 the Yellow Jackets have not only lost their chance at the ACC Championship, they've put themselves in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1996.
Tech quarterback Tevin Washington ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns and completed 9 of 14 for 144 yards and one touchdown. But it was his fumble on fourth-and-1 near the goal line that gave revitalized Clemson at a crucial moment.
The Yellow Jackets were leading 28-27 and got the ball at the 26 thanks to an interception by Grayson's Shawn Green. Tech drove it to the 7 when Washington fumbled the exchange and Grady Jarrett recovered for Clemson. The Tigers then drove 90 yards in 14 plays and took the lead on Chandler Catanzaro's 21-yard field goal.
Although Tech came back to take the lead with a field goal, Washington's untimely fumble prevented them from putting Clemson in a precarious position.
"Like I told the team, you get a kickoff on the 1 yard line, miss two field goals, miss a lot of tackles again and don't convert four down when you need to get points ... when you do that you aren't going to win too many games," Johnson said.
Tech never had an answer for quarterback Tajh Boyd, who completed 26 of 41 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns. Although Boyd was sacked three times, he always seemed to find DeAndre Hopkins at the opportune time. Hopkins caught seven passes for 173 yards, including a 58-yarder.
"When you've got a great receiver and you fight for the ball, it's funny how the ball just comes to you," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "DeAndre made huge play after huge play. He turned plays that didn't look like they were going anywhere and turned into big gains for the team."