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Clemson and Georgia Tech look to add new chapter in ACC rivalry

The Clemson and Georgia Tech rivalry is one of the hidden gems within the landscape of college football. The two teams have played a total of 76 times since their first meeting in 1898. Georgia Tech comes to Clemson this weekend having won five of the last six, including a win last season in Atlanta that ended Clemson’s undefeated streak. Over the last 20 years this rivalry has really blossomed, and while Georgia Tech has been on the edge of more victories, these games typically run on the side of all out nail-biters. In honor of Georgia Tech’s trip to Death Valley on Saturday, here is a list of the top five games between Clemson and Georgia Tech over the last 20 years.  While I’ll be hoping this Saturday offers up a comfortable Clemson victory, no one will be surprised if it ends up being a certified barnburner like most of the games below.

5) The Snap

Georgia Tech 28 (No. 20) Clemson 24, 2004

Clemson fans thought the win had been secured when a 64-yard touchdown run by Kyle Browning gave the Tigers a 10-point lead with just over three minutes to play. However, after a quick Georgia Tech score cut the lead back down to three, Clemson needed only to convert on a third down and one on its last possession to claim the victory.  Clemson running back Yusef Kelly dove over the pile for two yards but fumbled the ball backwards. Clemson recovered the fumble but was short of the first down and was forced to give the ball back to Georgia Tech with less than 30 seconds to play.

However in a play some just refer to as “the snap,” the Clemson long snapper skipped the ball past the punter on an errant snap which gave Georgia Tech possession on the Clemson 11-yardline with less than 15 seconds to play.  It took just one play for Georgia Tech to claim the victory. Reggie Ball threw a fade pass to Georgia Tech freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the game winning score, condemning Clemson to one of the most painful home defeats ever witnessed in Death Valley. Johnson finished the game with eight catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns in what was just the first of many great performances for the future first round draft pick.

Calvin Johnson stuns Death Valley crowd:

4) The Catch

Georgia Tech 31 (No. 4) Clemson 28, 2000

Clemson entered the game undefeated (8-0) and ranked fourth nationally.  Down by three in the fourth quarter, Clemson back-up quarterback Willie Simmons lead the Tigers down the field to take the lead on a 18-yard  touchdown pass to All-American wide receiver Rod Gardner with 1:53 left in the game. However, quarterback George Godsey marched the Yellow Jackets down the field to the Clemson 16-yardline with less than 20 seconds to play.  With seven seconds on the clock, Godsey found sophomore wide receiver Kerry Watkins in the back of the end zone for the game winning score.  Watkins got behind corner back Darrell Crutchfield and made an incredible one handed catch that gave Georgia Tech the victory and handed Clemson a shock defeat that would derail it for the rest of the season. Clemson would lose the following weekend in Tallahassee No. 4 Florida State 54-7.

Jackets end Tigers unbeaten run:

3) College Gameday, Thunder Lightening, and Purple Jerseys

(No. 12) Clemson 31 (No. 13) Georgia Tech 7, 2006

The 2006 edition of this rivalry did not quite produce that type of nerve racking back and forth play as past games in the series but was still significant in the history of the series as both teams entered the game ranked in the top 15.  The day of the game also saw Clemson host Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler for the shooting of ESPN’s College Gameday. With a raucous Death Valley home crowd still buzzing from hosting the College Gameday crew for the first time in school history, and with a national television audience tuning in for the prime time night game kickoff, the Clemson team switched their jerseys after pregame warm-ups to an all purple jersey. It was the first time Clemson had worn all purple in the modern football era.

The game was dominated by Clemson running back tandem James Davis and CJ Spiller. The running backs, nicknamed Thunder and Lightning, absolutely destroyed the Georgia Tech defense while racking up a combined 332 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Freshman sensation Spiller also scored on a 50-yard touchdown reception, leaving two Georgia Tech defenders grasping at air along the sideline, introducing himself to the college football world for the very first time. The Clemson secondary held All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson without a catch for the only time in his collegiate career.

“Thunder” and “Lightening” put on show for ESPN Gameday crowd:

2) Spiller not enough in ACC Championship Game

(No. 10) Georgia Tech 39 Clemson 34, 2009

In the sequel to the 30-27 regular season showdown that saw the Yellow Jackets survive a furious Clemson comeback, the ACC Championship offered 73 combined points, 883 total yards and zero punts. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt and tailback Jonathan Dyer executed Paul Johnson’s vaunted triple option attack to perfection, accumulating over 18 more minutes of possession than the Tigers. Clemson failed to get the Yellow Jackets off the field throughout the game as Georgia Tech converted on 11-of-18 third downs.  With 1:20 to play, Dyer went in for the winning touchdown on a 15-yard run to win Georgia Tech their first conference championship since 1990.

In the loss, Clemson senior running back CJ Spiller took home the game’s Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first player from the losing team to win the award in the championship game.  Spiller put together one of the best performances in Clemson history, rushing for 233 yards on only 20 carries.  Spiller also scored four touchdowns only further cementing his legacy among the Tiger faithful.

Spiller not enough to stop GT to ACC title:

1) Woodrow Dantzler puts on show in Atlanta  

(No. 24) Clemson 47 (No. 11) Georgia Tech 44, 2001

With Clemson trailing 38-34 with two minutes left to play, and the Tigers facing a fourth down and thirteen to go on their own 37-yard line, quarterback Woodrow Dantzler stood in the pocket before unleashing a 63-yard touchdown pass to a surprisingly wide open J.J. Mckelvey. The Yellow Jackets would move the ball all the way down to the Clemson 8-yardline, but were forced to kick a game a tying field goal after wide receiver Kerry Watkins was tackled three yards short of the goal line with only 20 seconds to play.

In overtime, with the scores tied at 41-41, Georgia Tech had to settle for only a field goal which set the stage for Dantzler to put a cap on an already amazing performance. On third-and-six from the 11-yardline, Dantzler took a designed quarterback draw up the middle and into the end zone for the game winning touchdown. Dantzler finished the day 18-of-32 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 164 yards rushing on 25 carries and two more rushing touchdowns. The game was the sixth consecutive game in the series that was decided by exactly three points.

Dantzler ends OT thriller in ATL:

Clemson @ GT 2001 Game:

(Dantzler first half 38 yd TD 52:04, McKelvey TD 1:54:36)

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