ATLANTA - Clemson shot itself in the foot so many times Saturday that they returned from Atlanta toeless.
The Tigers committed four turnovers - including their first three lost fumbles of the season - in an ugly 10-9 loss at Georgia Tech. The defeat drops Clemson to 4-4 (2-4 ACC), meaning Tommy Bowden's team must now win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible.
"You are not going to beat hardly anyone playing like that," said Bowden. "I thought we played good enough defensively to win the game."
P.J. Daniels (21 carries, 100 yards) scored on a three-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the game, 10-6. But on the ensuing kickoff, Clemson freshman Aaron Kelly turned in an 81-yard return to set up his offense at the Tech 17.
But after Reggie Merriweather (23-128) ran to the Yellow Jacket six on first down, the Tigers' offense bogged down. Merriweather carried twice to the two, but on third down the Clemson was penalized five yards for delay of game. Pushed backwards, Whitehurst had his pass to Chansi Stuckey at the goal line batted away by Tech's Kenny Scott.
Jad Dean then kicked his third field goal of the game, a 21-yarder, to cut the lead to 10-9 with 5:36 to go.
The Tigers' defense then forced Tech into a three and out, taking over at their own 48 after a 32-yard punt by Ben Arndt.
"(Defensively) I thought it was their best performance of the year against some pretty high marquee guys like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Ball and P.J. Daniels," said Bowden.
Clemson moved to the Georgia Tech 38 where, facing fourth and eight, Bowden called his final time out. After the discussion, Bowden decided against a 55-yard field goal attempt and chose to go for the first down.
But Whitehurst threw underneath to Curtis Baham, who was stopped by Scott well short of the first down. A visibly upset Bowden had words for Whitehurst as the quarterback came off the field.
"We tried to direct the ball to Aaron Kelly past the yard marker, which he was, but we needed to be a little more patient with the throw, and it would have been open," said Bowden. "But those are plays, to get to where you want to go, you've got to make down the stretch, and we didn't make them."
The Tigers got the ball back with :03 remaining after Tech punted to the Clemson 41. But Whitehurst's desperation deep pass as time expired was intercepted inside the five yard line by Dawan Landry, allowing Tech to improve to 5-2 (3-2).
Clemson's woes started on its very first possession, when an impressive drive was short-circuited by a Reggie Merriweather fumble at the Tech eight yard line. It was the first fumble lost by Clemson this season, and only the second lost by a Tiger running back in the last 32 games.
Whitehurst also fumbled twice while being sacked.
The Tigers had two other potential fumbles overturned - one by replay on a sideways pass to Aaron Kelly that was originally ruled a lateral and fumble; the other was wiped out by penalty when Tech's Jamal Lewis was ruled to have interfered with Stuckey's attempt to field a first-quarter punt.
Clemson's defense forced two turnovers on the afternoon. Michael Hamlin intercepted ball in the first half, and ball fumbled inside the Tigers' 20-yard line in the third quarter.
"They don't stop the season after eight games," said Bowden. "There's three left. A couple of years ago we sat there at 5-4 after a loss to Wake Forest and playing Florida State, and we finished up pretty strong."
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
Clemson............. 0 3 0 6 - 9 Record: (4-4,2-4)
Georgia Tech........ 0 3 0 7 - 10 Record: (5-2,3-2)
2nd 04:08 CU - Jad Dean 36 yd field goal, 8-35 2:51, CU 3 - GT 0
00:00 GT - Travis Bell 33 yd field goal, 8-18 0:50, CU 3 - GT 3
4th 12:44 CU - Jad Dean 42 yd field goal, 9-49 2:30, CU 6 - GT 3
08:35 GT - P.J. Daniels 3 yd run (Travis Bell kick), 9-85 4:09,
CU 6 - GT 10
05:36 CU - Jad Dean 21 yd field goal, 5-13 2:59, CU 9 - GT 10
FIRST DOWNS................... 18 16
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 35-145 39-182
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 180 126
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 30-19-1 24-14-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 65-325 63-308
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 1-11 2-25
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 1-81 3-44
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-31 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 3-36.7 7-37.0
Fumbles-Lost.................. 3-3 1-1
Penalties-Yards............... 8-58 11-77
Possession Time............... 30:09 29:51
Third-Down Conversions........ 3 of 11 6 of 15
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 0 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 2-3 2-3
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 0-0 3-25
RUSHING: Clemson-Reggie Merriweather 23-128; Kyle Browning 6-33; James
Davis 1-1; Chansi Stuckey 1-0; Charlie Whitehurst 4-minus 17. Georgia Tech-P.J.
Daniels 21-100; Tashard Choice 6-44; Reggie Ball 10-43; James Johnson 2-minus 5.
PASSING: Clemson-Charlie Whitehurst 19-29-1-180; Chansi Stuckey 0-1-0-0.
Georgia Tech-Reggie Ball 14-24-1-126.
RECEIVING: Clemson-Chansi Stuckey 8-89; Curtis Baham 4-25; Bobby
Williamson 2-29; Thomas Hunter 2-23; Aaron Kelly 2-7; Kyle Browning 1-7. Georgia
Tech-Damarius Bilbo 5-68; Calvin Johnson 4-46; Tashard Choice 3-3; James Johnson
1-8; P.J. Daniels 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS: Clemson-Michael Hamlin 1-31. Georgia Tech-Dawan Landry
FUMBLES: Clemson-Charlie Whitehurst 2-2; Reggie Merriweather 1-1. Georgia
Tech-Reggie Ball 1-1.
Stadium: Bobby Dodd Stadium Attendance: 55000