Tech Shocks Tigers in Valley, 31-28

by - Correspondent -
Kerry Watkins' one-handed, 16-yard touchdown catch gave the Yellow Jackets a 31-28 victory.

CLEMSON, SC -- The question isn't whether Clemson was prepared to challenge for a national championship.

The real question is whether anything can be done about the apparent choke-hold Georgia Tech apparently has on the Tigers.

For the fourth straight season, Clemson lost by three points to Georgia Tech. This time it was 31-28 in front of 84,000 at Death Valley. Clemson (8-1 overall, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) was fortunate to have held it that close considering the many different ways Georgia Tech (6-2, 4-2) beat the Tigers.

"We've been flirting with danger week to week," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.

If Georgia Tech is close, however, it seems to find a way to beat Clemson.
This year, it was quarterback George Godsey that killed Clemson with his passing. He completed 35 of 57 attempts for 454 yards and three touchdowns.

"Godsey came up with some big plays on third down when we had to have them," said Tech coach George O'Leary.

Clemson appeared to have survived Godsey when it scored on a 18-yard pass from Willie Simmons to Rod Gardner with 1:52 left.

However, Georgia Tech marched 80 yards in 13 plays in the time that remained. Godsey completed a third-and-four pass to tight end Russell Matvay for five yards. Two plays later he hit Kerry Watkins for a 21-yard gain that took the ball to the 29-yard line.

An offsides penalty against Clemson and an 8-yard completion to Watkins took the ball to the 16. Kelly Campbell, who led Georgia Tech in receiving with 14 catches for 209 yards, slipped in the end zone on the next play and limped to the sideline.

With Campbell out on the next play, Godsey found Watkins in the back corner of the end zone after Clemson defensive back Darrell Crutchfield slipped. Watkins caught the 16-yard pass to give Tech a 31-28 win with seven seconds left.

It was especially sweet for Watkins, who dropped a pass earlier in the season that could have beat N.C. State.

"We kept our heart in it and never gave up," said Watkins. "It wasn't a panic situation, which is the normal thing to do during the last two minutes. We just stayed calm and made plays."

It appeared for a moment that Clemson was the team that had displayed the last-minute heroics.

Brian Mance, who had earlier returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown, was hit late while returning a punt with just over two minutes left. The penalty gave Clemson the ball at the Tech 42-yard line.

Simmons, in for starting quarterback Woody Dantzler who took himself out of the game at halftime after reinjuring his left foot, completed a 28-yard pass to Justin Watts on the first play.

After Travis Zachery lost four yards, Simmons scrambled to his right and found Gardner in the back corner of the end zone for a 18-yard touchdown completion with 1:52 left.

"There was a lot of momentum swings,' said Bowden. "Which tells me a lot about a team's ability to bounce back and retake control. That hasn't happened a lot with this team this year."

For most of the game it was Clemson that struggled to take control. Its offense could be credited with just one touchdown before Simmons' completion to Gardner.

Dantzler led Clemson on a six-play, 72-yard touchdown drive midway through the first quarter. He completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Zachery to give Clemson a 14-3.

Clemson's scored its first touchdown after Toure Fancis blocked a Tech punt on the fourth play of the game. Joel Gardner recovered the punt on the Tech 1-yard line and Dantzler scored on a 1-yard sneak on the next play to put Clemson up 7-0 one minute into the game.

Georgia Tech's Luke Manget kicked a 27-yard field goal on Tech's next drive to cut the lead to 7-3.

Tech also scored on a 33-yard pass from Godsey to Watkins to cut Clemson's lead to 14-10. Two more field goals by Manget gave Tech a 16-14 lead at the half.

Mance's punt return gave Clemson a 24-21 lead and some apparent momentum.
Tech was forced to punt on its next drive and Simmons completed a 65-yard pass to J.J. McKelvey that took the ball to the Tech 12-yard line. Clemson, however, had to settle for a field goal attempt. Arron Hunt, who had earlier missed a 39-yard attempt, hit the right cross bar with this attempt from 29 yards.

Tech drove for a touchdown after the miss. Godsey completed a 48-yard pass to Campbell for a touchdown with 6:35 remaining in the game to give Tech a 24-21 lead.

Despite the disparity in total yards (550 for Tech, 354 for Clemson), Clemson was able to stay with Tech long enough to lose again by three.

"I don't know that they manhandled us," said Bowden, who now must prepare his team for Florida State.

That won't be any harder, however, than trying to break the hold that Tech seems to have on the Tigers.


                   1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH  FINAL
                   --- --- --- ---  -----
Georgia Tech        3  13  0   15    31
Clemson            14   0  7    7    28

First Quarter
     Clem- Dantzler 1 run (Hunt kick), 14:00
     GaT-FG Manget 27, 11:27
     Clem-Zachery 29 pass from Dantzler (Hunt kick), 6:06
Second Quarter
     GaT- Watkins 33 pass from Godsey (Magnet kick), 7:47
     GaT-FG Manget 29, 2:11
     GaT-FG Manget 38, 0:04
Third Quarter
     Clem- Mance 88 punt return (Hunt kick), 0:06
Fourth Quarter
     GaT- Campbell 48 pass from Godsey (Smith pass), 6:35
     Clem- Gardner 18 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 1:52
     GaT- Watkins 16 pass from Godsey (Phillip kick), 0:07

                     GaT      Clem
                     ---      ----
First downs            31       18
Rushes-yards        40-96   37-147
Passing               444      207
Comp-Att-Int      35-57-0  15-27-1
Return Yards           48      130
Punts-Avg.         8-35.5   7-47.1
Fumbles-Lost          2-0      2-2
Penalties-Yards      8-79     5-61
Time of Possession  38:15    21:45


RUSHING-Georgia Tech, Burns 29-98, Ford 2-6, Smith 1-3, Campbell
1-(minus 3), Team 1-(minus 4), Godsey 6-(minus 4). Clemson,
Zachery 16-101, Simmons 8-25, Dantzler 11-18, Rambert 2-3.

PASSING-Georgia Tech, Godsey 35-57-0-454. Clemson, Simmons
9-18-1-131, Dantzler 6-9-0-76.

RECEIVING-Georgia Tech, Campbell 14-209, Watkins 6-86, Burns
4-65, Curry 4-37, Muyres 3-26, Glover 1-24, Foschi 1-4, Matvay
1-(minus 5), Ford 1-(minus 2). Clemson, Zachery 4-49, Watts 3-43,
Gardner 3-27, Robinson 2-13, Youngblood 2-10, McKelvey 1-65.


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