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Sep 04, 2021

No. 3 Clemson Drops Defensive Battle to No. 5 Georgia

No. 3 Clemson Drops Defensive Battle to No. 5 Georgia

Box Score

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – James Skalski finished with a game-high 14 tackles as the No. 3 Clemson Tigers (0-1) held the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) to just three offensive points, despite falling 10-3 in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium to open the 2021 season. 

The Tigers’ defense held the Bulldogs to just two plays of 20 or more yards from scrimmage and forced two turnovers. Baylon Spector picked off JT Daniels for his first career interception and Jack Maddox recovered a muffed punt for Clemson.    

Clemson was led offensively by wide receiver Joseph Ngata, who finished the game with six catches for 110 yards, and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who was 19-for-37 with 178 yards passing.

Ngata recorded his first career 100-yard game.

The lone touchdown of the contest came in the second quarter, when Uiagalelei threw his first career interception to snap his interception-free streak of 128 consecutive passes, which Georgia’s Christopher Smith returned 74 yards for a touchdown. 

Clemson got the board with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard field goal from B.T. Potter.

Mario Goodrich joined Skalski in double-digit tackles with 12, including seven solo stops.

Clemson will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 11, when the Tigers hold their home opener at Memorial Stadium against South Carolina State. Former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller will be honored at halftime of that contest in advance of his upcoming College Football Hall of Fame induction in December.

Game Notes

  • Clemson played a third straight contest against an AP Top 5 opponent for the first time in school history. Prior to the current stretch, Clemson played back-to-back games against Top 5 teams four times, including the 2015 College Football Playoff (No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 2 Alabama), 2016 College Football Playoff (No. 2 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama), 2018 College Football Playoff (No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 1 Alabama) and the 2019 College Football Playoff (No. 2 Ohio State and No. 1 LSU).
  • The game was only the fourth season-opening game of two AP Top 5 teams since 2000, according to The Athletic’s Matt Brown. The others include No. 1 Alabama’s 24-7 win against No. 3 Florida State in 2017, No. 4 LSU’s 40-27 win against No. 3 Oregon in 2011 and No. 5 Miami’s 16-10 win against No. 4 Florida State in 2004. Prior to 2004, the two most recent such games were in 1999 (No. 3 Penn State 41, No. 4 Arizona 7) and 1986 (No. 1 Oklahoma 38, No. 4 UCLA 3).
  • Clemson and Georgia met with both teams ranked in the AP Top 25 for the fifth time in series history. 
  • Clemson and Georgia faced off with both teams in the AP Top 10 for only the second time in series history, joining No. 8 Clemson’s 38-35 defeat of No. 5 Georgia in 2013.
  • Wide receiver Justyn Ross made Clemson’s first catch of the season in his first game action in exactly 600 days, dating to the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 13, 2020 against LSU.
  • Ross finished the game with four catches for 26 yards in his return to action.
  • Wide receiver Joseph Ngata recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game, finishing the game with six catches for 110 yards.
  • Ngata’s previous career high in receiving yards was 62 against Charlotte in 2019.
  • Ngata’s six receptions doubled his career high, surpassing his previous mark of three, recorded three different times in his career.
  • Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei completed 19-of-37 passes for 178 yards.
  • Uiagalelei’s first career interception came on his 12th pass of the evening, the 129th pass attempt of his career. His interception-free streak of 128 passes concluded 37 attempts shy of the Clemson record for most pass attempts without an interception to start a career, held by Cullen Harper (first 165 passes of his career that spanned 2005-07). 
  • Clemson recorded the game’s first takeaway when a Clemson punt hit a Georgia player and was recovered by long snapper Jack Maddox.
  • Linebacker Baylon Spector recorded his first career interception in the third quarter, picking off a third-down throw by quarterback J.T. Daniels.
  • Clemson lost the game despite winning the turnover margin, 2-1. It marks only the sixth time in 174 games under Head Coach Dabo Swinney that Clemson has lost a game when winning the turnover margin.
  • Defensive end Myles Murphy pushed his career sack total to 5.0 with his first sack of the season.
  • Punter Will Spiers started his 57th game to tie the school record held by tackle Mitch Hyatt (57 from 2015-18).
  • Spiers, linebacker James Skalski and wide receiver/holder Will Swinney each played in their 57th career games to tie Chad Diehl (2007-11) for eighth in school history.
  • Kicker B.T. Potter converted a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Potter has made 12 of his last 13 field goal attempts, dating to last season.
  • True freshman guard Marcus Tate and true freshman safety Andrew Mukuba both started, marking only the second time since 1973 that Clemson has had two true freshmen start a season opener (tight end Jeff Wells and center James Farr in 1980).
  • Clemson played its third neutral-site season opener in school history (including games in Atlanta against Alabama in 2008 and against Auburn in 2012) and its fourth off-site opener, including one against Alabama in Birmingham in 1904.
  • Clemson opened a season against another Power Five Conference opponent outside of the ACC for the first time since 2016, when Clemson earned a 19-13 win at Auburn to kick off a national championship season.
  • Clemson concluded a streak of 127 consecutive games without losing back-to-back contests, the longest such streak in ACC history. It had been the longest streak in the nation prior to Saturday evening.
  • Captains for the contest were tight end Davis Allen, wide receiver Justyn Ross, linebacker James Skalski and linebacker Baylon Spector.