Sampson's INT Seals Another Wild Clemson-Ga. Tech Battle


by - Correspondent -
    |
Eric Sampson, the sophomore linebacker from Jacksonville, Fla., returned the game saving interception 35 yards.

CLEMSON - The scenario was beginning to look frighteningly familiar. As Clemson's offense struggled to move the ball down the stretch Saturday afternoon, the defense found itself spending more and more time on the field, trying to slow Georgia Tech's offense. And as a 24-6 lead began to slowly evaporate, visions of another Yellow Jacket miracle in Death Valley - a la Kerry Watkins' game-winning, one-handed touchdown catch in the final seconds in 2000 - began to emerge. But just when it looked like the Yellow Jackets might pull that miracle, Eric Sampson emerged from the quickly-developing pile of Death Valley rubble and saved the day.

POST GAME INTERVIEWS
Tommy Bowden - Real | Windows Media Willie Simmons - Real | Windows Media Derrick Hamilton - Real | Windows Media Eric Sampson - Real | Windows Media Rodney Thomas - Real | Windows Media
Sampson's interception of Georgia Tech quarterback A.J. Suggs at the Clemson 16-yard line ensured there would be no Tigers' collapse and preserved a 24-19 victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams. Sampson, the sophomore linebacker from Jacksonville, Fla., returned the pick 35 yards before finally being hauled down at midfield. After a 15-yard penalty on Clemson for excessive celebration, quarterback Willie Simmons ran off the final 1:12 by taking a knee twice. "It was a cover four and I had to read three, read the quarterback," Sampson said. "They ran a little skinny post and the quarterback threw it right to me. (Defensive coordinator John) Lovett put me in the right place to make the play." The win was Clemson's (2-1) second straight after the season-opening loss to Georgia. It came despite the Tigers' committing three turnovers in their final six full possessions, including a bad shotgun snap from Jermyn Chester that Georgia Tech (2-1) recovered to set up the final, futile drive. Suggs (17-of-31, 201 yards) had moved the Yellow Jackets from their own 38 to the Clemson 29 on back-to-back completions to Watkins (14 yards) and Lekeldrick Bridges (19 yards). But trying the deep middle again, Suggs threw behind his intended receiver and into the hands of Sampson, whose pick and return iced the Tigers victory. "Back there with Eric Meekins and Nick Eason, Bryant McNeal, Rodney Thomas and Altroy Bodrick and those seniors, (the defense) did a great job," said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. "The defensive staff really did a good job and Eric Sampson there in the end really sewed it up." Georgia Tech had pulled within striking distance with a pair of second-half touchdowns. The first, a seven-yard pass to tight end John Paul Foschi, capped a 78-yard drive and pulled the Yellow Jackets within 24-13 with 5:45 left in the third quarter. The second score came with 3:43 left in the game on a Tony Hollings one-yard run. But hoping for a two-point conversion that would have cut the margin to three, Tech was turned away when Foschi's reception on a swing pass came up just short. "I was proud of the way our players played during the second half, especially the defense," said Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey. "We needed to play like that the whole game, and we have to get things back on track offensively. There were just too many big plays against us in all phases (of the game)." Until bogging down in the third quarter, Clemson's offense appeared to be continuing its pattern of slow, steady improvement on a week-to-week basis, building an 18-point third quarter lead behind a mix of big plays, solid drives, and even a little luck. Wide receiver Derrick Hamilton totaled 256 all-purpose yards Saturday, falling just short of the Clemson record set by Terrence Flagler (274 yards) in 1986. Hamilton scored the game's first touchdown on an electrifying 77-yard run - on an inside handoff as he went in motion from right to left - to give Clemson a 10-0 lead. He set up the Tigers' score in the final minute of the first half by returning a Dan Dyke punt 79 yards to the Georgia Tech five. Clemson scored on a fourth-and-goal play from the two-yard line moments later, when Simmons scrambled to his left and tossed a backhanded shovel pass that tight end Bobby Williamson caught in traffic. "We really got our offense cooking in the first half," Bowden said. "I think we opened with an eight minute drive, and even if you don't get points it shows that you're going to be able to control the ball. We were minus three starters on offense, so I was real pleased we took it down there and were able to take time off the clock." Simmons finished the day 18-of-31 for 176 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His 44-yard bomb to Tony Elliott in the third quarter was Clemson's only points of the second half. Yusef Kelly rushed for 89 yards on 20 carries. Hollings, who had 297 yards in two games coming into Saturday despite having just one carry in the second half, answered any questions about his legitimacy by running for 147 yards (23 carries) and two touchdowns. One of his scores was a 72-yard run in the first quarter. Watkins continued in his role of Clemson-killer, catching seven passes for 139 yards.
 TEAM STATISTICS
                  	Georgia Tech	Clemson
 TOTAL FIRST DOWNS	16	15
 Passing         	10	6
 Rushing          	6	9
 Penalty          	0	0
 3rd-Down Efficiency	7-16	5-16
 4th-Down Efficiency	0-0	2-2
  
 TOTAL NET YARDS 	303	390
 Total plays      	63	70
 Average gain     	4.8	5.6
  
 NET YARDS RUSHING	129	206
 Rushes             	32	39
 Average per rush	4.0	5.3
  
 NET YARDS PASSING	174	184
 Completion-attempted	16-31	18-31
 Yards per pass    	5.6	5.9
 Sacked-yards lost	0-0	0-0
 Had intercepted 	1	1
  
 PUNTS-AVERAGE   	9-52.8	5-37.8
  
 RETURN YARDAGE  	12	132
 Punts-yards     	3-12	4-85
 Kickoffs-yards  	5-46	4-70
 Interceptions-yards	1-0	1-34
  
 PENALTIES-YARDS 	8-107	8-86
 FUMBLES-LOST    	2-1	4-3
  
 
 
 Passing
 GEORGIA TECH    	CMP	ATT	YDS	TD	INT
 A.J. Suggs       	16	31	174	1	1
 CLEMSON          	CMP	ATT	YDS	TD	INT
 Willie Simmons  	18	31	184	2	1
 
 Rushing
 GEORGIA TECH    	ATT	YDS	TD
 Tony Hollings   	25	167	2
 Jonathan Smith  	1	-3	0
 A.J. Suggs      	6	-35	0
 CLEMSON           	ATT	YDS	TD
 Derrick Hamilton	5	100	1
 Yusef Kelly     	21	90	0
 Willie Simmons  	8	9	0
 Tye Hill        	5	7	0
 
 Receiving
 GEORGIA TECH    	REC	YDS	TD
 Kerry Watkins	        7	115	0
 J.P. Foschi      	2	21	1
 LeKeldrick Bridges	1	17	0
 Tony Hollings    	1	17	0
 Gordon Clinkscale	4	4	0
 Jonathan Smith   	1	0	0
 CLEMSON         	REC	YDS	TD
 Tony Elliott     	3	85	1
 Derrick Hamilton	2	29	0
 Bobby Williamson	2	17	1
 Ben Hall              	2	14	0
 Jackie Robinson 	1	12	0
 Kevin Youngblood	4	10	0
 Yusef Kelly     	3	9	0
 J.J. McKelvey    	1	8	0
 
 Punting
 GEORGIA TECH    	PUNTS	YDS	LONG
 Dan Dyke        	9	475	143
 CLEMSON         	PUNTS	YDS	LONG
 Wynn Kopp        	5	189	52
 
 Kick Returns
 GEORGIA TECH       	RET	YDS	LONG
 Gordon Clinkscale	1	15	15
 J.P. Foschi     	1	0	0
 Brian Lee       	1	6	6
 Kerry Watkins   	2	25	18
 CLEMSON         	RET	YDS	LONG
 Derrick Hamilton	2	42	25
 Brian Mance     	1	10	10
 Jackie Robinson  	1	18	18
 
 Punt Returns
 GEORGIA TECH    	RET	YDS	LONG
 Kelley Rhino     	3	12	7
 CLEMSON         	RET	YDS	LONG
 Derrick Hamilton	4	85	79
 
 Interceptions
 GEORGIA TECH      	INT	YDS
 Kelley Rhino      	1	0
 CLEMSON         	INT	YDS
 Eric Sampson        	1	34
Drive Chart First Quarter Clemson 3, GT 0 Drive: 15 plays, 53 yards in 7:47. Scoring Play: Aaron Hunt's 34-yard field goal at 7:13. Key Play: Willie Simmons' 15-yard completion to Bobby Williamson to the GT 16 on fourth-and-6. Clemson 10, GT 0 Drive: 1play, 77 yards, in :13. Scoring Play: Hamilton's 77-yard run at 5:45. Key Play: Scoring play. Clemson 10, GT 6 Drive: 1 play, 72 yards in :21. Scoring Play: Hollings' 72-yard run at 5:24 (kick failed). Key Play: Scoring play. Second Quarter Clemson 17, GT 6 Drive: 4 plays, 5 yards in :50. Scoring Play: Simmons 2-yard pass to Williamson at :38. Key Play: Hamilton 79-yard punt return to GT 5. Third Quarter Clemson 24, GT 6 Drive: 6 plays, 66 yards in 2:29. Scoring Play: Simmons' 44-yard pass to Elliott at 10:40. Key Play: Simmons' 20-yard pass to Elliott on third-and-6 from own 38. Clemson 24, GT 13 Drive: 11 plays, 78 yards in 5:45. Scoring Play: Suggs' 7-yard pass to Foschi at 4:55. Key Play: Suggs' 22-yard completion to Watkins on third-and-21 from the CU 29. Fourth Quarter Clemson 24, GT 19 Drive: 8 plays, 59 yards in 3:29. Scoring Play: Hollings 1-yard run at 3:43 (2-pt. pass fails). Key Play: Suggs' 33-yard completion to Watkins on third-and-10 from the Tech 41.

Rate this Story:
24 votes

Send Feedback to Dan Scott: Email | Comment
    |
Loading...

Analyst says Watson 'magic' gives Texans shot at Patriots

Clemson vs. Boston College Prediction

Alabama OT commit: "I love Clemson"

Friday Email Bag

Clemson releases recap video on win over Louisville

WATCH: Clemson still 'most complete team' after losing kicker

Sammy Watkins leaves game with head injury

Clemson offers nation's No. 1 2019 center

Focus shouldn’t be a problem against Boston College
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Features
Updates
Daily Digest