This was the most lop sided win over Georgia Tech in 100 years, dating back to a 73-0 win over Tech in 1903. And, more importantly, the game gets the Tigers off to a 1-0 start in ACC and place the Tigers on a 3 game winning streak heading into a bye week before taking on Maryland in College Park.
I predicted a 20-17 Clemson loss Saturday night, which was off by an embarrassing 39 total points. Needless to say, I was happy to be as wrong as I was Saturday night as I sat in Bobby Dodd Stadium watching the final ticks of the clock wind down.
Here is how I graded the Tigers on my 5 keys to the game.
Watching P. J. Daniels go nowhere Saturday night reminded me of watching our running backs go nowhere against Georgia in week 1. The results were quite similar.
The Clemson defense never gave Daniels room to run, and sometimes he struggled just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Daniels rushed for a measly 34 yards on 16 carries which equates to just over 2 yards a carry. Considering the Tigers had struggled the week before in stopping the run, the fact that Georgia Tech only rushed for 96 total yards Saturday night has to be the best statistic on a night full of great statistics.
John Lovette had the defense prepared and ready to play, and the Clemson down lineman seemed to be dominating the line of scrimmage all night long. Donnell Washington, Maurice Fountain, Trey Tate, and Eric Coleman caused havoc all day long, and Fountain made the highlight shows with his safety on Reggie Ball in the 2nd half.
The linebackers were also spectacular Saturday night, with John Leake putting up his most impressive day as a Tiger. Leake had 14 tackles, three of which were for a loss. Leake also had an interception and a fumble recover to top off his night.
This was by far the best defensive performance of a Tommy Bowden coached team at Clemson, and the results made for a long night for P.J. Daniels.
The Georgia Tech offense did not exactly throw shivers into Clemson fans going into the game, but it was obvious that Clemson did not want to give Tech short fields to work with Saturday night. The goal was to make Tech go a long way by moving the ball on offense and keeping field position in the favor of the Tigers.
Mission accomplished. Georgia Tech had 14 offensive processions Saturday night, and 13 of them started inside their own 37-yard line. Tech also started drives at their own 11-yard line twice and on the 7-yard line one other time.
The result was a Tech offense that was able to move the ball at times, but never could sustain a drive long enough to get into scoring position. Credit the offense for moving the chains all night, Cole Chason for averaging 44 yards a punt, and the Clemson cover units for not allowing Tech to make long returns.
Clemson's offense has done a good job of moving the ball and taking care of the ball in recent games. The opposition has taken over possession of the ball inside their own territory on 26 consecutive possessions dating to the Furman game on September 6th.
Red Zone Offense
The first two Clemson processions offered up enough to be concerned. Both times Clemson started with excellent field position only to see the drives stall without any points being scored.
But, that is where the concern ended and the fun began. Clemson spent the rest of the night relentlessly attacking the Yellow Jackets. The first time the Tigers were in the red zone, Aaron Hunt came in and calmly drilled a 23-yard field goal. The next 5 times Clemson got into the red zone, the Tigers came away with touchdowns, something they had not been able to do against quality defenses in the past few years.
Creative play calling by Tommy Bowden is one reason for the success. Bowden continued to attack for the 2nd straight week and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. The next reason for the success is the excellent hands the receivers continue to show. If Whitehurst gives them a ball to catch, they catch it every time. Tony Elliot even made an acrobatic reception in the end zone for Clemson's first touchdown. And the final reason for the success lies in Charlie Whitehurst making great decisions as the playmaker on the offense. The offensive line continues to give him ample time to pick defense apart, and Whitehurst is taking advantage of his opportunities.
Charlie In Charge
Charlie Whitehurst continues to establish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Whitehurst completed 23-38 passes Saturday night for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air and one running.
Whitehurst has now moved to 15th in the nation in passing efficiency with 153.64 rating points. He is also 21st in the nation in total offense with 273 yards per game.
Whitehurst's only mistakes Saturday night was an overthrown ball to Currie on the first play of the day that would have been an easy touchdown followed by an interception later in that same series.
Whitehurst came in averaging 70% on his completion percentage, a number that most felt was not attainable against Tech. I thought Charlie needed to stay above the 60% mark versus Tech for Clemson to win, and Whitehurst's 61% rate Saturday night was plenty enough for an easy Clemson win.
It thought Clemson would have to mix things up Saturday in order to consistently move the ball against a good Georgia Tech defense. I was wrong.
Bowden left the tricks in the bag for another day because they simply were not needed. Clemson's dominance was so thorough that trickery would have been an insult to the players who were whipping Tech on both sides of the ball in the trenches.
So while a trickery grade is not applicable, I do think it fitting to credit Bowden and the offensive staff for the continued brilliant play calling on the offensive side of the ball. For the 2nd straight game, the game plan was outstanding and aggressive. If Clemson had a 3rd and 8, the passes were thrown past the first down markers. Clemson exploited the middle of the field as well as the sidelines. Several times Whitehurst rolled out of the pocket to find multiple receivers wide open.
Tommy Bowden earned his 50th career victory in the win over Georgia Tech. That total includes 18 at Tulane and 32 at Clemson.
Simply put…credit is due. It is easy and sometimes fashionable to criticize this coaching staff, but the past two games shows what can be at Clemson if the Tiger players and coaches continue to improve each week.
Rhymer's Grade On Bowden…A