GRADES: Tigers dismantle Tech

CLEMSON - Clemson rolls into the open date at 5-1.

Once again Clemson moved the ball up and down the field with relative easy, however the main issue Saturday was the lack of production in the red zone. Had the Tigers taken better advantage of three scoring opportunities, it could have been a "less tense" game. Nuk Hopkins continues to shine is quickly making a case for ACC Player of the Year honors with seven catches for 170+ and two scores. It was obvious Tajh Boyd wasn't as sharp as he normally was early, but he still smashed Clemson's all-time touchdown passing record with his 58 yard pitch-and-catch to Hopkins in the second quarter. Boyd also rushed for 79 yards as well. In all, the Tigers amassed 601 yards, including 397 through the air and 204 yards on the ground. Great play-calling. Great execution. And another explosive performance. The only issues were the two interceptions and the bogging down in the red zone, thus preventing the "A" grade.

It's yet to be a thing of beauty in 2012, but Clemson's defense made plays when it counted the most – particularly with the safety early in the fourth quarter and the blocked field goal just moments later. Tevin Washington surprised by taking to the air early finding success everywhere. Clemson's secondary struggled at times but credit Tech and Paul Johnson for keeping the Tigers' defense on its heels by switching things up. Tig Willard made a couple of big stops down the stretch and Spencer Shuey's safety provided as loud of a roar heard in The Valley in quite some time. Were there missed tackles? Yes. Were there blown assignments? Yes. But the defense buckled down with the game on the line and that's all you ask for in game like this.

Chandler Catanzaro remained perfect on the season, connecting on three tries, and the blocked field goal essentially thwarted all hopes of a Georgia Tech comeback. The Tigers also did a better job on kickoffs as Spencer Benton got the ball into the end zone with more regularity this week.

This game is always tense, and it was for nearly four quarters Saturday afternoon. Still, the Tigers came out of the gates playing inspired and the defense made more plays as the game went along. Chad Morris dipped into his bag of tricks as Nuk Hopkins hit Tajh Boyd for a critical two-point play. Brent Venables couldn't go out on the field and make tackles, even though he probably wanted, and generally had his guys in position to make plays. Clemson did a better job of fighting off cut blocks this year and that helped provide key stops in multiple circumstances late.

There was no Tevin Washington celebration of another upset. No Paul Johnson salvaging his season with another surprising win. It was Clemson proving it was the better team and it felt oh so good if you are a fan of the orange and white. It didn't figure to be pretty, but a win is a win and the Tigers now find themselves 5-1 headed into their lone open date of the season. The Tigers have two weeks to prepare for a Virginia Tech team that is a mere shadow of itself compared to a year ago. What does the rest of the season have in store? If Clemson can continue to take care of business, an at-large BCS bid is certainly possible. Stay tuned. Top Stories