ATLANTA – Of all the possible endings, of all the dreamed-up outcomes, this one may have topped even the most bizarre finish imaginable.
Woody Dantzler’s 11-yard quarterback draw on the final play of overtime gave Clemson an improbable 47-44 victory Saturday at Georgia Tech, stunning the No. 9 Yellow Jackets just as the Tigers were stunned last week, and further throwing the Atlantic Coast Conference race into a tizzy.
Dantzler’s run capped a wild second half which saw seven lead changes and 58 total points scored on a cool night in Atlanta. When it was all over Clemson was the last team standing, and to a man sprinted to the opposite end of Bobby Dodd Stadium to celebrate with the 7,000 or so Tiger fans going crazy in their seats.
“That was probably the biggest road win for Clemson in 20 years,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. “That was a big win for this team as far as making a statement. A win in the conference is always a big win, but the people back home will get a blast out of this.”
“We just didn’t have enough people inside getting enough off blocks to make the tackle,” Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary said of the game’s final play. “When you have enough people in the box somebody has to make the play. Dantzler did make the play.”
Dantzler, who appeared to be en route to engineering a come-from-behind win last week against Virginia before fumbling in a crucial situation, made no such mistakes Saturday.
He stoked the fire under his flickering Heisman Trophy hopes with over 400 yards of total offense, rushing for 164 and two touchdowns on 25 carries, and throwing for 254 and a pair of scores on 18-of-32 passing. He accounted for three of Clemson’s five second-half touchdowns, which included a pair of huge passing plays which served as counterpunches for Tech’s nonstop onslaught.
The first, a 55-yarder to senior Matt Bailey, put the Tigers on top 21-19 early the in the third quarter. The second, a 63-yarder to J.J. McKelvey, came on a fourth and 14 play with 1:58 left in the game.
“My teammates let me know they’re still behind me, they still trust in me,” Dantzler said. “Then I just gave it to God and said ‘Please give me the strength.’ Through the strength and power of God I knew I had to be there for my team. I’ve been here five years…hadn’t beaten Georgia Tech yet. And to come in here in a hostile environment and everybody doubting us…It’s nothing but inspiration. I feel so good right now I can hardly even describe it.”
“I thought we were a little lethargic on defense,” O’Leary said. “Not in terms of effort, but in terms of quickness. It looked like we were grabbing at air all the time instead of moving our feet.”
Not to be outdone, Tech quarterback George Godsey used the running of Joe Burns (30 carries, 126 yards, two touchdowns) to match Clemson score for score. After McKelvey’s touchdown put Clemson ahead 41-38, Godsey drove the Yellow Jackets 87 yards in 10 plays. From the Clemson 3, kicker Luke Manget tied the game with a 20-yard field goal at :06.
Manget then gave Tech a short-lived 44-41 lead with a 33-yarder in overtime, setting up the dramatic finish.
O’Leary said he considered going for it on fourth down.
“If it had been less than a yard we probably would have gone for it because I didn’t feel comfortable stopping them,” he said. “But I didn’t want to give them a chance to win it by just kicking a field goal. But I really thought we would need seven.”
Hamilton led the Tigers with 7 catches for 75 yards. |
Meanwhile, Clemson’s defense found itself operating on a short field for much of the evening. Not counting overtime, five of Georgia Tech’s scoring drives were 53 yards or less, and four of those began inside Tigers’ territory.
But when Reggie Herring’s unit had to stiffen, it did. Clemson held Kerry Watkins to a 5-yard reception on third and 8, the play before Manget’s game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. Then in overtime, the Tigers stopped Burns for no gain on third and one from the 16, forcing the Yellow Jackets to settle for Manget’s 33-yarder for the 44-41 lead.
“I think it helps when you put your defense on the first first,” Bowden said of the overtime. “It lets you know whether you need a field goal or a touchdown to win the game.”
Dantzler’s running got Clemson back into the game on the final play of the first half when he broke free on a 38-yard scoring run as the second quarter expired. The touchdown brought the Tigers to within 19-14 at the half, setting the tone for the wild second half.
Georgia Tech had scored 16 consecutive points prior to Dantzler’s run, turning a 7-3 deficit into a 19-7 lead. Godsey’s 16-yard pass to Will Glover and Joe Burns’ 1-yard run put Tech in control, though a two-point conversion attempt failed after Burns score.
For Bowden, the win may have been an important moment for his program.
“I wasn’t sure how this team would respond after losing last week,” he said. “This is a defining game that makes a statement about this team and your ability to draw some strength from within. The players are the ones who have to respond, not the coaches.”
Georgia Tech 3, Clemson 0
Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 31 yards in 2:48
Scoring Play: Luke Manget’s 22-yard field goal at 8:16.
Key Play: George Godsey’s 28-yard pass to Kerry Watkins on third and 13 from the Tech 39.
Clemson 7, Georgia Tech 3
Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 62 yards in 4:01.
Scoring Play: Travis Zachery’s 3-yard run at 4:15.
Key Play: Chad Jasmin’s one-yard gain on fourth and one on a fake punt from the Clemson 47.
Clemson 7, Georgia Tech 6
Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 24 yards in 2:19
Scoring Play: Manget’s 47’yard field goal at 1:44.
Key Play: None.
Georgia Tech 13, Clemson 7
Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 53 yards in 2:45.
Scoring Play: George Godsey’s 16-yard pass to Will Glover at 7:42.
Key Play: Godsey’s 19-yard pass to Russell Matvay to the Clemson 30 on second and 6.
Georgia Tech 19, Clemson 7
Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 40 yards in 2:15.
Scoring Play: Joe Burns’ one-yard run at 2:28 (pass failed).
Key Play: Burns’ 12-yard run to the one.
Georgia Tech 19, Clemson 14
Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 79 yards in 2:17.
Scoring Play: Woody Dantzler’s 38-yard run as time expired.
Key Play: Dantzler’s 19-yard run on third and 12 from the Clemson 32.
Clemson 21, Georgia Tech 19
Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards in 1:37.
Scoring Play: Woody’s Dantzler’s 55-yard pass to Matt Bailey at 13:23.
Key Play: Scoring Play.
Georgia Tech 26, Clemson 21
Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 65 yards in 3:07.
Scoring Play: George Godsey’s 35-yard pass to Kelly Campbell at 10:16.
Key Play: Scoring Play- Clemson’s defense buys a run fake on third and one, leaving no defender within 20 yards of Campbell.
Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 26
Scoring Drive: 13 plays, 80 yards in 5:11.
Scoring Play: Travis Zachery’s 3-yard run at 5:05 (pass fails).
Key Play: Derrick Hamiltion’s 18-yard reception to the Tech 12 on second and 19.
Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 26
Scoring Drive: 18 plays, 80 yards in 6:25
Scoring Play: Travis Zachery’s 2-yard run at 12:01.
Key Play: Defensive holding penalty on Tech on a third-and-goal incomplete pass from the six.
Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 32
Scoring Drive: 9 plays, 74 yards in 3:48.
Scoring Play: Joe Burns’ 1-yard run at 8:13 (pass fails).
Key Play: Pass interference on Kevin Johnson that gave Tech first and 10 at Clemson 25.
Georgia Tech 38, Clemson 34
Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 40 yards in 3:06.
Scoring Play: Sidney Ford’s 10-yard run at 3:51 (run fails).
Key Play: Interfering with the punt-catcher penalty on Clemson’s Toure Francis to give Tech possession at the CU 40.
Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 38
Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 60 yards in 1:53.
Scoring Play: Woody Dantzler’s 63-yard pass to J.J. McKelvey at 1:58.
Key Play: Scoring Play – Pass was completed on fourth at 14 from the Clemson 37.
Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 41
Scoring Drive: 10 plays, 87 yards in 1:52.
Scoring Play: Manget’s 20-yard field goal at :06.
Key Play: Godsey’s 21-yard pass to Kelly Campbell to the Clemson 7.
Georgia Tech 44, Clemson 41
Scoring Drive: 4 plays, 9 yards.
Scoring Play: Manget’s 33-yard field goal.
Key Play: Scoring Play.
Clemson 47, Georgia Tech 44
Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 25 yards.
Scoring Play: Dantzler 11-yard run.
Key Play: McKelvey diving catch for 5 yards on third and five from the 20.
1 2 3 4 OT F
- - - - -- --
Clemson (25) 7 7 13 14 6 47
Georgia Tech (11) 6 13 7 15 3 44 FINAL
Georgia Tech-FG Manget 22
Clemson-Zachery 3 run (Hunt kick)
Georgia Tech-FG Manget 47
Georgia Tech-Glover 16 pass from Godsey (Manget kick)
Georgia Tech-J Burns 1 run (two-point conversion failed)
Clemson-Dantzler 38 run (Hunt kick)
Clemson-Bailey 55 pass from Dantzler (Hunt kick)
Georgia Tech-K Campbell 35 pass from Godsey (Manget kick)
Clemson-Zachery 4 run (two-point conversion failed)
Clemson-Zachery 2 run (Hunt kick)
Georgia Tech-J Burns 1 run (two-point conversion failed)
Georgia Tech-Ford 10 run (two-point conversion failed)
Clemson-Mckelvey 63 pass from Dantzler (Hunt kick)
Georgia Tech-FG Manget 20
Georgia Tech-FG Manget 33
Clemson-Dantzler 11 run
Clemson Georgia Tech
First downs 27 26
Rushed-yards 52-248 45-196
Passing yards 254 216
Sacked-yards lost 6-18 2-13
Return yards 3 21
Passes 18-32-0 17-27-1
Punts 4-32.5 2-55.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 11-108 6-48
Time of possession 31:16 28:44
RUSHING: Clemson-Dantzler 25-164, Zachery 22-79, Rambert 3-4,
Hafley 1-1, Jasmin 1-0. Georgia Tech-J Burns 30-126, Ford
10-69, K Watkins 1-9, K Campbell 1-1, Godsey 3-minus 9.
PASSING: Clemson-Dantzler 18-32-0-254. Georgia Tech-Godsey
RECEIVING: Clemson-Hamilton 7-75, Zachery 7-46, Mckelvey 2-68,
Bailey 2-65. Georgia Tech-K Campbell 5-83, J Smith 4-29, K
Watkins 3-56, Glover 2-23, Matvay 2-18, J Burns 1-7.