Jackets stun Clemson — and did that just happen?

Tevin Washington and teammates Roddy Jones and Shaquille Mason celebrate after a second-quarter touchdown. (AP photo)

Tevin Washington and teammates celebrate after his second-quarter touchdown run.

(UPDATED: 12:15 a.m.)

Was it all a setup? Was the plan to unravel offensively like never before during Paul Johnson’s tenure on The Flats, lose consecutive games after a 6-0 start, then hit the BCS’s No. 5 team across the head with a 2-by-4 — you know, just for a little drama?

Or maybe Georgia Tech was just teasing Independence Bowl officials.

The Jackets didn’t merely upset Clemson Saturday night. They handled the Tigers with alarming ease. They played easily their best game against their strongest opponent of the season. They allowed Clemson the first three points of the game, then scored the next 24. They had well over 400 yards in offense. They won 31-17.

Did that just happen?

“We played hard and we played with emotion,” coach Paul Johnson said. “When that happens, you have a chance to win.”

And suddenly, a season that seemed to be spinning out of control still has the chance to turn into something special.

When it was over, fans swarmed the field. I’m not sure, but I think I even saw Johnson smile.

“I knew we wouldn’t quit — unlike some people,” Johnson said, referencing doubts about the team from media and fans. “I knew we would play hard.”

Quarterback Tevin Washington, who came back from two shaky performances to rush for 176 yards (a school record for a quarterback) and a touchdown, said, “Coach just told us that it was a great team win and everybody had written us off.”

That won’t be an issue going into the Virginia Tech game Nov. 10. The Jackets (4-2, 7-2) are a game behind the Hokies in the ACC Coastal, but another win over a likely favorite would all but put them in the ACC championship (with only the Duke game remaining on the conference schedule).

Dabo Swinney’s first game as Clemson’s interim head coach came against Tech and Johnson in 2008. The Jackets won 21-17. Johnson was 3-1 in four head-to-head meetings between the two going into Saturday, so it’s not as if the Jackets haven’t had recent success against the Tigers.

But how do you see leads of 24-3 (halftime) and 31-10 (third quarter) coming for a team that only two weeks ago lost to Virginia?

Clemson had won eight straight. It has one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, with 114 points in the last two games. Tech had lost two straight. It’s offense had been more like an old tire with a leaky valve. In the last 10 quarters going into Saturday, the Jackets had scored three offensive touchdowns.

That’s like giving Paul Johnson the key to the U.S. mint and telling him, “You can only take a nickel.”

But neither team looked itself in the first half. Clemson had five full possessions and was held to one field goal, two punts, a fumble and a missed field goal.  Swinney left the field with that stunned wildebeest look on his face.

The Jackets failed to gain even a first down on their first two possessions. Then they scored 24 points on their next four.

They got some help. Louis Young forced a fumble on Clemson’s backup running back, D.J. Howard, and Rod Sweeting recovered at the Tigers’ 19. (Officials originally ruled Howard down but the play was overturned on replay.) Six plays later, Orwin Smith scored from the one to give Tech its first lead at 7-3.

But the key to the offense on this night was Washington. He ran and passed better than he had in weeks. It seemed in recent games that his confidence was shaken. When Synjyn Days played the final inglorious minutes in last week’s loss at Miami, the thought occurred Johnson might even make a change at quarterback if Washington struggled early against Clemson.

That wasn’t necessary. He looked like the Washington of early season. He had a career-high 46-yard run in the first half (when he rushed for 85) and then trumped that with a 56-yarder in the third quarter. He completed a 44-yard pass to Stephen Hill (whose spectacular catch led to a late-half touchdown run by Smith). Washington also might’ve thrown a long touchdown pass to Hill but the wide receiver let a perfect pass slip between his hands near the Clemson 20 as he streaked down the right sideline.

The Jackets’ offense was churning. It had touchdown drives of 80 and 78 yards to close the half, making it 24-3. When Clemson scored in the first 1:26 of the second half, Tech responded with a 77-yard scoring drive of its own to make it 31-10.

Tech tried to make it interesting. A Washington fumble at the Clemson three late in the third quarter prevented a potential 38-10 lead and an early celebration. With the score 31-17, a Washington interception with 10:39 left gave the Tigers possession at the Jackets’ nine, with a chance to close to within a touchdown. But on first and goal, Taj Boyd’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Jemea Thomas (wide receiver Sammy Watkins turned around after the ball already was over his head).

That was it. Clemson had been given its last chance. And Tech had morphed back into a winner.

By Jeff Schultz

379 comments Add your comment

Bobby

October 29th, 2011
11:29 pm

Praise God from Whom all Blessings flow….

GO JACKETS!!!!!

Gth650h

October 29th, 2011
11:30 pm

GT Alum coming live from Kabul. Lets go Jackets!

zgoldatl

October 29th, 2011
11:33 pm

G o Jackets.
Fight, Win Drink, Get Naked

come on

October 29th, 2011
11:33 pm

you are making it seem like tech got lucky. tech beat the living crap out of clemsux from the get go so stop down playing it

cattle dawg

October 29th, 2011
11:35 pm

Great day for the Ga teams!

spider

October 29th, 2011
11:37 pm

both linesman in that game should be fired..how do you miss a clear offsides like that and im not a gt fan.

dave

October 29th, 2011
11:38 pm

season back on.

HEATHER DINICH IS A MORON

October 29th, 2011
11:38 pm

The Ghost

October 29th, 2011
11:38 pm

The offense can work when everyone does their job. The defense proved that they can “man up” and own the opposition. When everyone does their specific job, this offense and defense can work.
It’s not always gonna be pretty, true enough. And I don’t agree with CPJ’s position on everything (such as handling of special teams and his take on recruiting rankings) but he’s a pretty good coach overall.

Tech Fan DeLand Fl

October 29th, 2011
11:40 pm

It’s unfair to say Washington fumbled as the Clemson guy was 3 feet offside as shown on replay and literally took the hand off. How do both officials miss that as both announcers were incredulous. Cost Tech 7 points.

Dragon

October 29th, 2011
11:41 pm

As usual, the coastal div comes down to GT-VPI. Take the Jackets to play Clumpson again for the ACC title, and GT will have to vacate another title.

spider

October 29th, 2011
11:41 pm

mayby both those linesman were BYU graduates..confirmed cheaters.

Boobie Bowden

October 29th, 2011
11:42 pm

Dear ACC Commissioner:

We would respectfully request that in the future you do not assign Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to officiate our games.

Sincerely,

Ramblin Reck

Buzzzzzzz

October 29th, 2011
11:42 pm

I’m so proud that Tech won with its student-athletes, unlike the shameful cesspool of remedial studies goons in Athens.

Go, Yellow Jackets!

Tech Mom

October 29th, 2011
11:43 pm

Tech fans….enjoy your homecoming! What a game!

The Ghost

October 29th, 2011
11:43 pm

@ Dragon……your name on here is Dragon (most likely a reference to some lame crap like Dungeons and Dragons). Enough said.

rash

October 29th, 2011
11:43 pm

you blowed this call shultz just keep writing and leave the predicitions in your pocket

bhamwreck

October 29th, 2011
11:44 pm

50-25-2 all time vs Clemson. We own you like low caste toilet cleaners. Now go get your toilet brush.

TeckRedNeck

October 29th, 2011
11:44 pm

I would not have given Tech a chance in hell of winning that game. BUT DAMN I’M GLAD THEY DID!

Jacket Man

October 29th, 2011
11:44 pm

Great all around physical play by the Jackets. Hats off to the defense; in particular Jemea Thomas who intercepted 2 passes and forced a fumble, not to mention all of the tackles he made and passes he defended. Tevin Washington made great passes (except for the interception, where Stephen Hill was wide open for the TD) and great reads, pitches, and runs. Great blocking all around as well; from the offensive linemen, A-Backs, and wide receivers. Even the kicking game did well (with the excepting of the one kickoff return coverage).

GTFan

October 29th, 2011
11:44 pm

The “fumble” on the three in the third quarter was the result of the defensive tackle of Clemson being offsides. It was clearly shown on TV replay and the officials blew it. Tech should have been awarded the ball and would have had a chance to score. It did not change the outcome of the game but it is too bad that such an obvious foul was missed by the zebras. Tech did a good job. Clemson has a fast and powerful team.

K-Dogg

October 29th, 2011
11:47 pm

I agree with Spider… that missed offsides call was essentially a 14 point swing in favor of Clemson (granted GT allowed them to march 99 yards for a score following the blown call). This game should have been a bigger blowout than it was… more like 38-10… but I guess the refs wanted to make it interesting!

snow jackit in MD

October 29th, 2011
11:47 pm

how do you intercept a snap????

Offsides!?!?!

Ramblinwreck83

October 29th, 2011
11:47 pm

Go Jackets. I loved how they shut up Dabo tonight. Great play by all areas of the team. Too bad they couldn’t have punched it in from the 1 after the missed offsides by clemson. No wonder the DT had the ball. He was in the backfield when the ball was snapped. I hope this gets them back on track to the ACC championship. Gotta take care of VT next and then Duke. And I think I did see PJ smile there. Nice site to see. GOOOOO JACKETS!

BUZZ 2011

October 29th, 2011
11:49 pm

Really.. Really… Another great Schultz caal………………….

spider

October 29th, 2011
11:49 pm

im telling you those two linesman had to be BYU graduates, they are the only people NCAA allows too cheat in a game and get away with it.

katherine

October 29th, 2011
11:50 pm

good job predicting that both the dawgs and gt would lose schultz………..maybe you should just stick to writing :)

Ol'JacketFan

October 29th, 2011
11:52 pm

Fun, fun game to watch this evening. I am very proud of this TEAM and look forward to the rest of the season. The players, coaches and fans deserve to enjoy this one! Go Jackets!!!!!!!!!!!1

McDonough Jacket

October 29th, 2011
11:52 pm

Great win. The defense has looked impressive recently. Nealy,Johnson, and Thomas are making big plays. I can’t wait to see the VPI game. Go Jackets.

Ol'JacketFan

October 29th, 2011
11:53 pm

I’ve watched Tech football for a long time and I’m not sure Tech has ever had such an athletic, talented secondary as they have now!

Score Check

October 29th, 2011
11:54 pm

The acc sucks.

Bill

October 29th, 2011
11:55 pm

What a day for GT & UGA… Give Glory to God for two good teams, good players,fans and coaches ..good night!

Coach man-boobs

October 29th, 2011
11:56 pm

Does anyone know where I can get a size Double-D bra?

Coach man-boobs

October 29th, 2011
11:57 pm

Does anyone know where I can get a chin augmentation?

William Casey

October 29th, 2011
11:58 pm

Georgia Tech soundly defeated the nation’s #5 team. The blocking was excellent and it was the best defensive effort against a very talented offense in a long time. That’s all that needs saying. But, the failure to call that offsides was the worst call (or lack there of) I’ve seen this year.

Jacket Fan in F'ville NC

October 29th, 2011
11:58 pm

Big sigh of relief. PJ was right just let ‘em play the game before we right them off. Beat the Hokies and Duke and the GA-Tech game is the biggest in years! Way to Go Jackets!

BUZZ 2011

October 29th, 2011
11:58 pm

Oh My Dabo!! Tech had the ball for only 40 minutes…

katherine

October 29th, 2011
11:58 pm

Coach man-boobs
October 29th, 2011
11:56 pm

Does anyone know where I can get a size Double-D bra?

Victoria’s secret…or my house LOL j/k or am I…..muahhhha

4th and Long Gone

October 29th, 2011
11:59 pm

First, way to go Tech. They played outstanding. But I must say, after seeing all the Dabo (film) clips before the game, I thought “what a jerk.” However, I was impressed by his gentle discussion with the player after the fumble and how gracious he appeared talking to CPJ after the game. I change my opinion….

Ol'JacketFan

October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

lol@katherine! nice one ;-)

William Casey

October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

Coach ___ ___, you are a sad little vermin. LOL

BUZZ 2011

October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

Not many Dawg comments here.. Well, what could they say as they can’t comprehend beating ranked teams…

ESPN

October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

For all ESPN’s love for Clem’s Son they have nothing on their website while other, more respectable, sports web sites have it up.

katherine

October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

this stanford/usc game is a good one too…

wreckmaniac

October 30th, 2011
12:01 am

The Clemson off-side when Tech was down at the 3 yard line could have been the worst no-call of the year but Tech pulled the officials butts out of the fire. I hope someone is pointing this out to the zebras who covered this game.

McDonough Jacket

October 30th, 2011
12:01 am

USC’s fight song is almost as annoying as UGAs.

katherine

October 30th, 2011
12:01 am

BUZZ 2011
October 30th, 2011
12:00 am

Not many Dawg comments here.. Well, what could they say as they can’t comprehend beating ranked teams…

come on now…dont ruin a great win for your team by going down to trolls levels. Im a dawg fan but am very happy for you all.

shorter passes are fun...long ones too!

October 30th, 2011
12:02 am

Slot start.

Then, Washington got his pitch back!

Washington got his confidence back!

Love it!

19

October 30th, 2011
12:03 am

Well, Tech should not get too excited…it’s only a “high school” offense that beat #5 Clemson. It was all “smoke and mirrors”. Plus the added expense of dry ice and there you go dawgtools!

Go Jackets!!!

William Casey

October 30th, 2011
12:03 am

Hope that GT and UGA both run the table so Nov. 26th will truely be epic.