Biggest Win In 20 Years

Wow, what a difference a week makes! As I sat in Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday evening basking in the glow of an incredible finish, I realized what an incredible emotional roller coaster this Clemson football team in taking us all on. As low as last weekends loss to Virginia was (and it was a very low point), the win in Atlanta was definitely a huge high…maybe only surpassed in the Tommy Bowden era by the win over South Carolina last year.

Not only was it a great feeling, it knocked a monkey off the back of the Tommy Bowden era in that the Tigers finally beat a team that they were underdogs against on the road. In addition, it was a win on the road against a Top 10 team, a feat that has not been accomplished in Clemson since 1981 when the Tigers beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Looking back to last weeks "5 Things To Watch", here is how the Tigers graded out Saturday in Atlanta.

#1-Catch A Break Or Two
There is no doubt that the Tigers were due a break or two sometime this year, and it came at the most opportune times Saturday. Clemson was fortunate when the refs ruled Chad Jasmin down before he fumbled in the first quarter. Replays showed he was not down, nullifying a touchdown by Tech and assisting in keeping a drive alive for Clemson that resulted in a touchdown. Also, on 4th and 13 with under two minutes in regulation, J.J. McKelvey broke containment on the coverage from the Tech secondary to catch a 63 yard touchdown pass from Woody Dantzler. All in all, the breaks fell the Tigers way…probably for the first time this year and the first time in 4 years against Georgia Tech.

Rhymer's Grade…A

#2-Rusty Wreck
It was hard to tell whether Tech was rusty from the 21-day layoff, or if they simply were not firing on all cylinders because of Clemson's defense. George Godsey was a respectable 17-27 for 216 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. But, Godsey had a hard time completing long passes and never really seemed as much in command as the field general as he did last year in Death Valley. Rusty or not, Tech looked no better on offense or defense than Clemson did. Which means Tech was not as good as advertised, or Clemson is a lot better than we believed just a week ago.

Rhymer's Grade…A

#3-Keep ‘Em In Front
If there was one major goal of the defense this past week, it had to be keeping Tech receivers in front of the Tiger defenders. Making Tech convert long drives was key to the Tigers staying in the game. On Saturday, you could definitely say mission accomplished. Kelly Campbell, Tech's outstanding wide receiver, only caught 5 balls for 83 yards. He did have a touchdown catch, but his longest reception was 35 yards in what amounted to a busted coverage by the Clemson secondary. Kerry Watkins, the culprit in last years dramatic ending, was held to only 3 catches for 56 yards. Again, if you take away the blown coverage on the TD catch by Campbell, the afternoon was about as good as could be expected with regards to big plays given up.

Rhymer's Grade…B

#4-Will There Ever Be A Big Play?
Not only was there a big play, but there were a ton of them. Clemson did not have a play over 40 yards this year on offense going into the Tech game, but the Tigers brook loose Saturday versus Tech. Woody Dantzler's 38-yard run as time elapsed in the first half single handily thrust him back into the Heisman Trophy race. Matt Bailey's 55-yard touchdown pass was not only a great catch, but Bailey made a big time move to the outside to allow him to go un-touched into the end zone. And J.J. McKelvey's catch on forth down with under two minutes to go in the game was the stuff of legends, electrifying the Tiger faithful in Atlanta. These big plays are what is supposed to happen in this offense, and Saturday it happened for the first time this year.

Rhymer's Grade…A+

#5-Rally The Troops
If there was any doubt as to the ability of this coaching staff in preparing the Tigers for this game Saturday, it was quickly erased. The Tigers looked fired up to play. And, maybe more importantly, the Tigers came on the field un-intimidated at Tech's ranking or the home field advantage. You got a sense as the week went on that the coaching staff thought they would have a team play Saturday that could beat Tech, and they were absolutely right. As critical as people were with the coaching staff after last week (criticism that the staff deserved in most cases), you have to dump a ton of praise on them this week in preparing Clemson to beat a top 10 team on the road.

Rhymer's Grade…A

The off week will offer the Tigers a wonderful opportunity to rest and heal its haggard troops. Next week, the focus can turn to NC State. But, for now, the Tigers should enjoy the best win in 20 years and take a moment to realize that they are still very much in the hunt for an ACC title. Clemson, by beating Tech, now holds the tiebreaker if they finished tied with Tech in the ACC standings. The Tigers will have the opportunity to play FSU, UNC, and Maryland; teams that are ahead of Clemson in the ACC standings. If Clemson can play as well offensively as they did Saturday, they will be a major factor in the ACC race.

And remember, the ACC Champion gets an automatic BCS bowl berth. For a team that many had written off as Peach Bowl bound—at best, there sure is still plenty to play for in this 2001 season.

Scott can be reached at

Scott is the host of "The College Football Weekend Preview" on Thursday nights from 8-10 p.m. immediately falling Tiger Calls on WCCP 104.9 FM. The show can also be heard via the Internet at Top Stories