Oct. 29, 2011
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ATLANTA, GA – Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney made no excuses following the Tigers’ 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday night.
“We just made too many costly errors tonight,” said Swinney. “We turned it over four times, had costly penalties and allowed too many big plays. It’s not complicated. Georgia Tech out-executed us in all phases.
“We did not quit, and I’m proud of the team’s effort. If we had scored after Hall’s interception, we would have been seven points down with 10 minutes to play. We have no excuses, they just whipped us.
“We have to learn from this and get recharged during the open date. We will play for the divisional championship against Wake Forest.”
The Tigers (8-1, 5-1 ACC) can win the Atlantic Division with a victory over Wake Forest in two weeks at Death Valley. But Clemson’s focus after the game was the missed opportunities it had, especially in the second half when it cut the Georgia Tech lead to 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter.
After coming into the game with a plus-nine turnover margin, Clemson lost the turnover battle 4-2, with two of those turnovers coming on promising drives in which the Tigers were deep in Georgia Tech territory.
“It was a little bit of everything, offense, defense and special teams,” said Tajh Boyd. “They outplayed us in all phases. We have to soak it up and try not to let these experiences hinder us and dictate the rest of the season.”
Trailing 24-3 at halftime, the Tigers appeared poised for another comeback when Boyd hit Sammy Watkins (10 catches for 159 yards) for a 49-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the third quarter. But Georgia Tech quickly answered when quarterback Tevin Washington took a quarterback draw 56 yards on third-and-six, setting up an 11-yard run by David Sims for a 31-10 lead.
The Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2) rushed for 383 yards on 67 carries with Washington leading the way with a career-high 176 yards.
“We just physically got whipped,” Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “We got out-executed. From a defensive standpoint, we did not play to our expectations.”
Even with that, Clemson got within 14 points again on the first play of the fourth quarter when Brandon Thomas recovered a Boyd fumble in the end zone. That completed a 97-yard drive after Washington fumbled a snap at the Clemson one yard line.
The Tigers amassed 226 yards of offense in the third quarter, largely due to Boyd, who completed nine of 12 passes for 179 yards, including the 49-yard pass to Watkins, and two others to the freshman, of 28 and 26 yards to set up the touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Tigers had two more chances to draw closer after the Thomas touchdown, but a promising drive bogged down at the Tech 47, and then after Rashaad Hall returned an interception to the Georgia Tech nine-yard line.
On the next play, Boyd and Watkins failed to communicate on a fade to the end zone and Tech’s Jemea Thomas intercepted the pass for a touchdown, thus ending Clemson’s last chance at a comeback.
“I thought he was going to the back of the end zone,” said Boyd, who finished the night 23-40 for 295 yards. “That is something we might have talked about before, but it was a miscommunication. That was a crucial play. The defense got a turnover and we did not capitalize on it.”
“It is disappointing, but I’m a player that hates to lose more than I like to win,” Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen said. “Anytime a loss comes on the record board for me, I’m sick. But, everything we want to accomplish from a team standpoint is still out there and that is what we are focusing on.”
By Will Vandervort, IPTAY Media
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