Spiller's effort not enough as Tigers lose ACC Championship

by - Senior Writer -
Discuss on TigerBoard   Print   | TigerNetcom Facebook ClemsonTigerNet Twitter TigerNet RSS Feed

TAMPA, FL. – C.J. Spiller gave it his best Heisman and MVP effort, but Orange Bowl dreams were lost in the damp Tampa air because a relentless Georgia Tech offense just couldn’t be stopped.

The 12th-ranked Jackets ran 65 offensive plays and racked up 469 yards of total offense in beating the Clemson Tigers 39-34 in the ACC Championship Game in Tampa, earning a berth in the BCS Orange Bowl and sending Clemson to its second-straight crushing defeat at the hands of a hated opponent.

“It’s a painful experience,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Locker room is hurting. Somewhere along the line we’ll grow from this painful experience and get better from it. You know, I believe that there’s a lot to learn in the good and the bad, and obviously this is very disappointing.”

Spiller was outstanding once again, tallying 301 yards of total offense, including a career-high 233 yards rushing on 20 attempts, an astounding 11.6 yards per rush, winning the MVP Award, but said coming up short overshadowed the individual performance.

“You never want to come up short when you play in these championship games, but like coach said, they just made the extra play they needed to make to win,” Spiller said. “A lot of people had written us off, not even to be in this position, but we stayed together and I want to give credit to my offensive guys. Those guys did a great job of covering them up, wide receivers did a great job downfield blocking, and they just made my job a whole lot easier.”

Swinney said Spiller gave everything he had in the loss.

“I want to congratulate C.J.,” Swinney said. “He left it all out on the field; that’s all you can ask. He left everything he had on the field. We lost the game and I think he still made MVP, so we’re really proud of him.”

The Tigers trailed 33-20 late in the third quarter, but Spiller put the team on his back and helped lead the Tigers back to a 34-33 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the game, and Spiller gave the credit for the comeback to the offensive line.

“Like I say, you’ve got to go back to the offensive line,” Spiller said. “Those guys did a great job early of establishing the run, so I got kind of comfortable seeing how the defense was playing. I was able to get a lot of cutbacks.”

The Jackets won the opening toss, but elected to defer to the second half, and the Tigers made them pay after a pooch kick gave them the ball at the 29-yard line. Spiller’s 40-yard run down the left sideline highlighted a seven play drive that was capped when Spiller scampered in from three yards out, and Clemson led 7-0 just over three minutes into the game.

The Jackets responded with a 48-yard field goal from Scott Blair, and after Clemson’s Richard Jackson missed a 52-yard attempt, the Jackets again drove down the field and scored on Jonathan Dwyer’s 4-yard touchdown run, and Tech had the 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.

A Kyle Parker interception led to another field goal from Blair, this one from 49 yards, and Tech led 13-7. The drive was unique in that the final numbers showed a seven minute drive that wound up gaining just 23 yards.

The Tigers responded in big fashion on their next drive. Clemson took four plays, all Spiller runs, to drive down to the Tech 41-yard line. Facing a third-and-2 from there, Tech called a run blitz and Parker pitched to Spiller, who went into the teeth of the blitz on the left side and rushed all the way for the touchdown.

The extra point was unsuccessful because of bad snap, however, and the score was tied at 13 with 2:55 remaining in the half.

The rush put Spiller over the 1000-yard rushing mark for the season, and gave him 18 touchdowns on the season, tying a Clemson record held by Travis Zachery.

Blair hit his third field goal of the half, from 28 yards out, with six seconds remaining to make the score 16-13 in favor of Tech at the half.

The Jackets started the second half the way they played in the first half, taking an 11-play drive down for a 13-yard touchdown run by Nesbitt that put the Tigers in a 23-13 hole with 9:12 remaining in the third quarter. To that point in the game, Tech had run 56 plays to Clemson’s 21 plays.

Clemson once again didn’t take long to respond, marching 60 yards in just five plays to trim Tech’s advantage to 23-20. Facing a second-and-10 from the Tech 35-yard line, Parker slipped the ball to Spiller while executing a fake to Jacoby Ford on the reverse, and Spiller raced untouched into the end zone for the touchdown.

The Clemson defense was in need of a stop on one drive, but big wide receiver Demaryius Thomas got behind Crezdon Butler on a fly route on Tech’s next drive, a 70-yard touchdown pass, and Tech was back up by 10 at 30-20.

A promising Clemson drive on the ensuing possession ended when Parker threw a ball up for grabs on a second down play, and the pass was intercepted by Tech’s Jerrard Tarrant and returned to the Clemson 28-yard line. Blair hit his fourth field goal of the game, from 40 yards, to give Tech a 33-20 lead at the 1:11 mark of the third quarter.

Facing an early end to the game, the Tigers once again responded by leaning on Spiller to get the ball into the end zone. Twice on the drive, the Tigers were forced to go on fourth down, and completed a pass to Ford for one first down, and got a pass interference penalty called against Tech on the other one to set up a 9-yard run by Spiller, his fourth touchdown of the game, and Tech led 33-27 with 12 minutes remaining.

The Yellow Jackets once again drove down the field, but Da’Quan Bowers’ 11th tackle of the night turned out to be huge. The Jackets faced a 4th-and-1 at the Clemson 37-yard line, but Nesbitt’s push into the middle of the line was repulsed by Bowers, marking the first Clemson stop of Tech’s offense on the night.

On Clemson’s next play, Spiller dashed 54 yards down to the Georgia Tech 9-yard line, and three plays after that Andre Ellington dove over from the one-yard line for the touchdown. Jackson hit the
extra point, and Clemson had their first lead since the first quarter at 34-33.
The Jackets took over with over six minutes remaining and did their inexorable march down the field, capping their biggest drive of the day with a 15-yard touchdown run by Dwyer with 1:20 remaining. Nesbitt appeared to run in the two-point conversion, but the ruling was overturned and Tech led 39-34 with an Orange Bowl berth on the line.

The Tigers took over at their own 35-yard line, but a critical holding call for the third year in a row helped halt a Tiger drive that ended when Parker fell short of the first down marker on fourth down with 29 seconds remaining, setting off a burst of oranges from the Tech fans in the stands.

“Third game in a row we get a holding on the last drive against Georgia Tech, so it’s something I’ll have to see if we can figure out what not to do,” Swinney said of the holding call. “I don’t know if there was a holding call the whole game. But disappointing.”

The Jackets had the ball for over 37 minutes, never punted, and were 11-of-18 on third down conversions, and Swinney said the game came down to Clemson’s failure to stop the Tech offense other than the one fourth down.

“They really didn’t stop us either; again, we ran out of time,” Swinney said. “Certainly when you can’t stop them, it’s hard to win. They made some critical plays, 4th down, 3rd down. Hard to win. Time of possession had to be way out of whack. Again, I wouldn’t say they stopped us. It was a shootout, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the ball enough. And then we had a couple of turnovers on offense that allowed them to get a couple of extra possessions in there.”

Score by Quarters     1  2  3  4   Score
-----------------    -- -- -- --   -----
Georgia Tech........  3 13 17  6  - 39       Record: (11-2,7-1)
Clemson.............  7  6  7 14  - 34       Record: (8-5,6-2)

Scoring Summary:
1st 11:24 CU - Spiller, C 3 yd run (Jackson, R kick), 7-71 3:36, GT 0 - CU 7
    07:30 GT - Scott Blair 48 yd field goal, 9-54 3:49, GT 3 - CU 7
2nd 13:30 GT - Jonathan Dwyer 4 yd run (Scott Blair kick), 12-65 5:18, GT 10 - CU 7
    05:35 GT - Scott Blair 49 yd field goal, 12-23 7:40, GT 13 - CU 7
    02:55 CU - Spiller, C 41 yd run (Wade, M rush failed), 5-65 2:33, GT 13 - CU 13
    00:06 GT - Scott Blair 28 yd field goal, 15-53 2:43, GT 16 - CU 13
3rd 09:12 GT - Josh Nesbitt 13 yd run (Scott Blair kick), 11-71 5:42, GT 23 - CU 13
    06:39 CU - Spiller, C 36 yd run (Jackson, R kick), 5-60 2:33, GT 23 - CU 20
    05:10 GT - Demaryius Thomas 70 yd pass from Josh Nesbitt (Scott Blair kick), 3-70 1:23, GT 30 - CU 20
    01:11 GT - Scott Blair 40 yd field goal, 4-5 0:51, GT 33 - CU 20
4th 12:00 CU - Spiller, C 9 yd run (Jackson, R kick), 10-72 4:04, GT 33 - CU 27
    06:11 CU - Ellington, A 1 yd run (Jackson, R kick), 4-63 1:41, GT 33 - CU 34
    01:20 GT - Jonathan Dwyer 15 yd run (Josh Nesbitt rush failed), 13-86 4:45, GT 39 - CU 34

                                     GT       CU
FIRST DOWNS...................       28       15
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............   65-333   34-323
PASSING YDS (NET).............      136       91
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........   18-9-0  17-10-2
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....   83-469   51-414
Fumble Returns-Yards..........      0-0      0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............      0-0      0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........    6-117    5-106
Interception Returns-Yards....     2-50      0-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............    0-0.0    0-0.0
Fumbles-Lost..................      1-0      0-0
Penalties-Yards...............     5-31     4-30
Possession Time...............    37:17    22:43
Third-Down Conversions........ 11 of 18   5 of 9
Fourth-Down Conversions.......   2 of 3   1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......      5-5      3-3
Sacks By: Number-Yards........      0-0      0-0

RUSHING: Georgia Tech-Jonathan Dwyer 24-110; Josh Nesbitt 22-103; Roddy
Jones 4-67; Anthony Allen 5-18; Marcus Wright 3-13; Embry Peeples 2-10; Preston
Lyons 3-10; Demaryius Thomas 1-3; Team 1-minus 1. Clemson-Spiller, C 20-233;
Ellington, A 5-63; Parker, K 4-13; Harper, J 3-12; Ford, J 1-4; TEAM 1-minus 2.

PASSING: Georgia Tech-Josh Nesbitt 9-16-0-136; Team 0-2-0-0.
Clemson-Parker, K 10-17-2-91.

RECEIVING: Georgia Tech-Demaryius Thomas 2-77; Embry Peeples 2-21; Tyler
Melton 2-16; Jonathan Dwyer 2-14; Stephen Hill 1-8. Clemson-Ford, J 3-32;
Palmer, M 3-29; Harper, J 2-7; Dye, X 1-18; Spiller, C 1-5.

INTERCEPTIONS: Georgia Tech-Jerrard Tarrant 1-50; Dominique Reese 1-0.

FUMBLES: Georgia Tech-Roddy Jones 1-0. Clemson-None.

Stadium: Raymond James         Attendance: 57227
Kickoff time: 8:06 pm   End of Game: 11:36     Total elapsed time: 3:30
Officials: Referee: Jeff Flanagan; Umpire: Keith Roden; Linesman: Mike Owens;
Line judge: Sterling Allen; Back judge: Tommy Pace; Field judge: Billy Beckett;
Side judge: Jim Coman;
Temperature: 53        Wind: N 6 mph   Weather: 88% humidity, cloudy

Comment on this story
Send Feedback to David Hood: Email | Comment Post your comments!
Discuss on TigerBoard   Print   | TigerNetcom Facebook ClemsonTigerNet Twitter TigerNet RSS Feed
Report: Former Clemson receiver re-signs with Chargers
Report: Former Clemson receiver re-signs with Chargers
Clemson LB signee suffers knee injury playing basketball
Clemson LB signee suffers knee injury playing basketball
Former Clemson RB signs with Bucs
Former Clemson RB signs with Bucs
Clemson targets, commits see movement in new Rivals rankings
Clemson targets, commits see movement in new Rivals rankings
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Daily Digest