Tigers Run Roughshod Over Visiting Yellow Jackets

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - There was very little question coming into Saturday night that Clemson was a good football team. But with blowout wins over four of the worst defenses in the country en route to a 6-1 start, some wondered exactly how good Tommy Bowden's team really was.

Wonder no more.

James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined to rush for 332 yards and score four touchdowns, leading No. 12 Clemson to a 31-7 domination of No. 13 Georgia Tech Saturday night at Death Valley.

More than 83,000 fans, a national television audience and ESPN's GameDay crew watched the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 ACC) - wearing all purple uniforms for the first time in at nearly 70 years - shred the seventh best rushing defense in the country for a net total of 321 yards.

"It's a pretty good feeling to have running backs like James Davis and C.J. Spiller," said Clemson left tackle Barry Richardson. "They can make an offensive line look good. When you have two backs making plays like they did tonight it makes us tough to beat."

Meanwhile, Vic Koening's defense shut out All-American wide reciever Calvin Johnson for the first time in his career. Johnson had caught passes in 30 consecutive games entering Saturday, and had been particularly dangerous in his last three outings. In that stretch Johnson reeled in 22 passes for 413 yards and five scores.

Coming into the game averaging nearly six receptions per contest, he was able to draw a pass interference penalty on the Tigers' defense on Tech's (5-2, 3-1) first offensive play of the game.

After that he was a non-factor, thanks mostly to the combination of help over the top from safety Michael Hamlin and consistent pressure on quarterback Reggie Ball from Clemson's front four.

"Our motive is to be successful running the ball," said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. "You have to give credit to the defensive and offensive lines, and our running backs really did the job tonight. Our defense puts us in a position to be able to pound the ball when they play like they did tonight.

"The defensive staff did a good job tonight...We gave Vic Koening the game ball."

Ball completed just 12-of-25 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown and one interception. With rare exceptions the Tigers were able to keep the fleet-footed quarterback within the confines of the pocket, refusing to allow Ball to make plays with his running ability.

"We just never had any rhythm," said Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey. "Clemson did a good job of keeping us off balance. We'll definitely have to study the film and make sure this doesn't happen again."

With that kind of performance from his defense, Bowden only had to turn to Davis and Spiller for the bulk of Clemson's offense.

Davis ran for a career-high 216 yards on 21 carries, and did so despite missing much of the second quarter after suffering a stinger in his left shoulder. Davis had runs of 54, 53 and 30 running through gaping holes opened by his offensive line, and polished off Clemson's first and last scoring drives with touchdown runs of two and five yards, respectively.

Meanwhile, Spiller finished the evening with 116 yards on 16 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to go in the third quarter that, at the time, gave Clemson a 17-0 lead.

After Tech scored its only touchdown on Ball's 35-yard pass to the other wide receiver named Johnson (James) to cut the lead to 17-7 with 13:31 left in the game, Spiller delivered the back-breaker - and play of the game - on Clemson's next possession.

On third and four from midfield, Spiller took a swing pass from Clemson quarterback Will Proctor (6-of-17, 105 yards, TD, Int.) in the right flat, juked not one but two Yellow Jacket defenders in front of the Tech sideline, then turned on the jets and raced untouched for another 50-yard touchdown.

That made it 24-7, and effectively turned out the lights on Georgia Tech's night.

Davis' second touchdown run came with 7:29 left to provide the final margin.

Jad Dean's 25-yard field goal in early in the third quarter provided Clemson's other points.

Clemson outgained Georgia Tech 426-205 in total offense, and limited the Yellow Jackets to just 88 net rushing yards.

"Clemson had a lot of momentum in the second half. We missed a lot of tackles and Clemson made a lot of big plays," said Gailey. "They are very physical on both the offensive and defensive lines. Those big plays really hurt your moral and hurts your momentum."

Clemson has a quick turnaround for its next game. The Tigers travel to Virginia Tech this Thursday night for another nationally-televised game on ESPN.

"The atmosphere up in Blacksburg is going to be good for motivation," Bowden said.


- Saturday was the first time in Clemson's so-called modern era that the team wore all purple uniforms, according to Sports Information Director Tim Bourret. Bourret said there is a picture in his office of Tiger legend Banks McFadden wearing all purple in a 1939 contest.

- Starting left guard Roman Fry injured his right knee on the game's third play. He was helped from the field and did not return. He was replaced in the lineup by Chris McDuffie.

- Tight end Thomas Hunter injured his shoulder in the second quarter and did not return.

- Davis' 216 rushing yards were the most by a Clemson player since Woody Dantzler ran for 220 vs. Virginia in 2000. It's the most by a Tigers' running back since Raymond Priester's 263 against Duke in 1995.

- Saturday's game marked the first time in school history that Clemson had a 200-yard rusher (Davis) and a 100-yard rusher (Spiller) in the same game.

- Gaines Adams' fourth-quarter sack of Ball was his sixth straight game with at least one, setting a new school record.

- Saturday night's game was just the second in the last 11 meetings between the teams in which the final margin was more than five points.

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