A fumbled kickoff that led to a safety two plays later, two failed fourth-down conversions, a missed field goal and a blocked field goal were just too much to overcome as the Yellow Jackets lost to No. 15 Clemson 47-31 on Saturday.
“Right now, we’ve got to play close to perfect,” Johnson said. “Clearly, we have to score more points.”
Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has to score more because its defense continues to get steamrolled. Clemson (5-1, 2-1) gained 601 yards on 93 plays, becoming the third team in a row to gain at least 500 yards on the Yellow Jackets.
“It’s been a struggle,” Johnson said of his defense. “The effort was better. The effort was much better. I think we played OK in spurts.”
Not many teams are stopping the Tigers this year. Clemson has gained at least 500 yards in four of its six games. And Georgia Tech got its offense going too, gaining 483 yards. But in the end, it was a defensive play that turned the tide.
Right after Clemson’s Tajh Boyd threw a 35-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins that put the Tigers ahead 38-31 with 10:29 left in the game, Georgia Tech bobbled the kickoff and had to start from its 2-yard line. Tigers linebacker Spencer Shuey sniffed out an option pitch two plays later for a safety that crushed the Yellow Jackets’ chances. It was the first time either team led by more than a touchdown.
Orwin Smith was tackled for a safety. It was his only bad play — he gained 117 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Tevin Washington, who ran 16 times for 104 yards also missed seeing Shuey when he made the pitch. But he didn’t think it cost his team the victory.
“With a game like that, there are so many little things that add up,” Washington said. “It could have been something that happened in the first quarter.”
Washington completed nine of 14 passes for 144 yards as Clemson’s defensive backs sometimes cheated a little to stop the option. But they adjusted as the game went on.
Still, even after the safety, Georgia Tech had a chance to get back in the game. Linebacker Daniel Drummond picked off a tipped pass with 8:32 to go. The Yellow Jackets drove to the Tigers 20, but David Scully’s 37-yard field goal was blocked by Josh Watson.
“We missed two field goals,” Johnson said. “When you do that, you’re not going to win too many games.”
Boyd threw for a career high 397 yards, completing 26 of 41 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions. Hopkins had 173 yards receiving on seven catches and two touchdowns and Andre Ellington ran for 82 yards on 24 carries.
Clemson also rubbed it in against a Georgia Tech team that won four of the last five between the teams, giving the ball to Roderick McDowell on a second-and-goal with the Yellow Jackets out of timeouts and 50 seconds left. McDowell ran a yard for the score.
“If we take a knee right now, I was going to be disappointed,” Boyd said of the last drive. “I know it’s sportsmanship, but at the same time, we got down there, we’ve got to go get it. This is a rivalry game for us.”
The Yellow Jackets’ 2-4 start is their worst since they went 1-10 in 1994. But Smith said it isn’t time to give up because there is still half the season to go.
“I always keep faith no matter what. We’ve just got to find a way to keep the guys to believe in themselves and keep going hard,” Smith said. “It’s not over. We still have things we need to accomplish. A bowl game is definitely on the list.”