• 55°

Clemson dominates early, beats Georgia Tech

By Paul Newberry

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — Deshaun Watson and No. 5 Clemson finally turned in the performance everyone was expecting, totally dominating Georgia Tech in the first half on the way to a 26-7 victory Thursday night.

After sluggish wins over Auburn and Troy, and a practice-like rout of FCS school South Carolina State that meant nothing, the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won at Georgia Tech for the first time since 2003 to set up a huge showdown with No. 3 Louisville.

Watson was 32 of 48 for 304 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams and a 9-yarder to Jordan Leggett with just 4 seconds left before halftime to complete a stunningly lopsided showing that wasn’t entirely reflected in the 23-0 lead. Wayne Gallman added a 1-yard TD run.

Clemson finished with a 442-124 lead in total yards.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won here,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ll take it.”

Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1) didn’t get into positive yards until early in the second quarter and the halftime stats were almost comical: Clemson held a 347-22 lead in yards, was up 19-3 in first downs, and ran 56 plays to only 21 for the home team.

The Yellow Jackets picked up one first down on a debatable pass interference penalty, another on a meaningless 14-yard run at the end of half. Clemson looked as though it was playing a lower-division school for the second week in a row, not its ACC opener.

“We were outmanned,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “It wasn’t a fair fight.”

This was a virtual repeat of last year’s meeting at Clemson, where the Tigers raced to a 33-10 halftime lead on the way to a 43-24 victory.

Clemson backed off over the final two quarters, and Georgia Tech managed to avoid its first home shutout since 1957 when Dedrick Mills scored on a 2-yard run with 13:21 remaining.

Even when Georgia Tech came up with a big play, it wound up costing points. Lance Austin intercepted a pass in the end zone and tried to bring it out — only to be whacked inadvertently by teammate Corey Griffin, knocking the ball loose.

Austin fell on it in the end zone, but that was a safety for Clemson.

There wouldn’t be an upset on this night.

THE TAKEAWAY

Clemson: Don’t read too much into the sluggish showing in the second half. It was only natural that the Tigers let down a bit after dominating the first two quarters. For sure, this was just the sort of confidence-boosting performance that Clemson needed heading to their showdown with Louisville.

Georgia Tech: After opening with three straight wins over mediocre opposition, the Yellow Jackets don’t seem to have made much improvement over last year’s 3-9 debacle. Johnson’s triple-option offense was totally manhandled and increasingly looks like a gimmick that other teams have figured out. Poor recruiting seems to have caught up with the Yellow Jackets when they face elite competition.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

After slipping a bit in the rankings off their first two wins, the Tigers should stay right where they are — maybe even move up a spot or two — when the Associated Press poll comes out next week.

UP NEXT

Clemson: When Louisville visits Death Valley on Oct. 1, it will have all the makings of a national playoff game. Assuming the Cardinals (3-0) get by Appalachian State on Saturday night, two unbeaten powerhouses will meet to establish the pecking order atop the ACC.

Georgia Tech: No. 15 Miami (3-0) and longtime nemesis Mark Richt visit Bobby Dodd Stadium on Oct. 1. Richt is in his first season as the Hurricanes coach after 15 years at Georgia, where he went 13-2 against the Yellow Jackets.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

___

AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

Comments

Crime

Man faces charges in juvenile’s shooting on West Bank Street

Education

RSS gets clean audit, firm says no misappropriations of school funds

News

Rowan County recalibrates plans for Woodleaf Community Park after missing out on grant funding

News

NC NAACP elects first woman as president; Salisbury’s Black finishes third

Coronavirus

FDA OKs Pfizer vaccine for young kids

News

State news roundup: Davidson County parents charged in abuse of 6-week-old

Coronavirus

COVID spread down substantially in North Carolina, state data shows

Sports

ACC eyes new headquarters options outside Greensboro

Local

Rabid raccoon break-in forces Dan Nicholas Park staff to euthanize three animals

Business

Real estate agent takes advantage of hot High Rock Lake market, earns award for $10 million in transactions

High School

High school girls golf: Mustangs finish 4th in 3A state tournament

Local

Rowan Sheriff’s Office will hold fundraisers, grow beards to help Marsh family

Crime

Blotter: Four charged with contributing to neglect of minor

Business

Umami Downtown aims to bring bold flavors to Main Street

Education

RSS Board of Education discusses latest draft of school justice partnership

China Grove

Touting experience, Don Bringle looks to retain seat on China Grove Town Council

Crime

Jury selection begins in trial of man charged with killing father

High School

High school football: Freeman a surprise weapon for Hornets

News

North Carolina’s $25 reward helped boost COVID vaccinations

Education

RSS makes masks optional, plans to revisit decision in November

Elections

Rowan, Cabarrus, Stanly GOP host U.S. Senate forum in Gold Hill for registered Republicans only

Crime

Juvenile shot Saturday expected to make full recovery

Crime

Blotter: Homeless man jailed after throwing rocks through woman’s front door

Local

Political Notebook: Rowan County elections supervisor speaks out after debate to replace him