Tigers Stumble Badly In Atlanta


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ATLANTA - Tommy Bowden worried about Georgia Tech's knack for playing well with its back to the wall. His fears proved to be legitimate.

The Yellow Jackets shut down Clemson's running game Saturday and took advantage of penalties and shoddy special teams play to get past the Tigers, 13-3, before a sellout crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.

After starting the conference season 0-2, Georgia Tech (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) needed a win in the worst way. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and avoided their first 0-3 start in league play since 1994.

Meanwhile, the Tigers (4-1, 2-1) had their four-game season-opening winning streak snapped because it couldn't get anyting going on offense and had special teams problems yet again. To wit:

- Kicker Mark Buchholz misfired four times on field goal attempts;

- Jimmy Maners had a punt blocked to set up the only touchdown of the game;

- Jacoby Ford fumbled on punt return, setting up a field goal that gave Georgia Tech a 10-point lead with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.

- The Tigers roughed the punter on a fourth-and-long kick;

As if all that wasn't bad enough, the Tigers' only touchdown was negated because of a personal foul call, and Tech's only score came after a pass interference penalty on the Tigers on a third-down pass.

And, finally, quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked six times and harassed all day long.

All in all, it was a tough day to be a Tiger.

"We didn't play well in two aspects of the game, and Ga.Tech is too good a team to do that against," said Bowden. "We never got momentum offensively. Never did anything consistently. Never developed any continuity.

"And we dropped a whole lot of footballs, I know that."

For Tech Tashard Choice, bothered the last two weeks by a hamstring problem, looked like his normal, healthy self Saturday. Choice rushed for 145 yards on the day and scored the game's only touchdown, a two-yard run that ultimately provided the Yellow Jackets with all the points they would need.

Clemson gets its mettle tested next week, when Virginia Tech comes calling at Death Valley (6 p.m., ESPN). For Bowden, it will provide a major test for his team's intestinal fortitude.

"Nobody likes to lose. It's just part of the game," Bowden said. "It's how you respond. We've got our first loss. Not a divisional loss, but a conference loss...This is when you find out about your team."

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