For the first 25 minutes of the game, Georgia Tech looked unstoppable. Then it was Clemson's turn. But in a game of remarkable twists, the Yellow Jackets finally took control when it mattered most.
Scott Blair threw a touchdown pass early on, kicked a 36-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining and No. 15 Georgia Tech rallied to beat Clemson 30-27 after squandering a 24-point lead Thursday night.
Clemson scored 27 straight points, taking its first lead of the night on Richard Jackson's 53-yard field goal with 11:33 to go.
But Georgia Tech, which did nothing offensively through most of the second and third quarters, came back to life. The Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0) put together a 69-yard drive to set up Blair's tying kick, a 34-yarder with 5:40 left that made it 27-all.
Then, after a holding penalty on Clemson's Thomas Austin wiped out Kyle Parker's 38-yard completion to Jacoby Ford, Georgia Tech got a chance to win it.
Josh Nesbitt hooked up with Demaryius Thomas for a 39-yard pass. After Thomas' catch, the Yellow Jackets moved into position for Blair's winning kick.
Blair also threw a 34-yard touchdown pass during Georgia Tech's early barrage on a fake field goal.
Parker, a redshirt freshman making only his second college start, helped bring the Tigers back from a dismal start. He threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with C.J. Spiller on a 63-yarder and Ford on a 77-yarder, sandwiched around a 9-yard scoring pass to Dwayne Allen.
The holding penalty was eerily similar to last year when Cullen Harper connected with Ford on a long completion on 4th-and-12 ... only to have the play negated with again Austin getting called for the hold.
Spiller rushed for 87 yards and caught four passes for 69 more. Ford had five catches for 109 yards.
Afterwards Spiller said the team is already looking to next week, hoping to redeem the loss, although he said it won’t break the Tigers.
“I’m pretty sure our team will be ready to go. I can’t be more proud of the way we performed tonight, especially on the road against a top 15 team,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids to be down 24-0 on the road in a tough environment,” said Coach Dabo Swinney, who admitted he was outcoached in the first half.
“They showed what they’ve got. That’s heart and toughness. They didn’t quit.”
Anthony Allen led Georgia Tech with 127 yards rushing on just five carries, including an 82-yard touchdown on his team's second play from scrimmage that sparked the quick start by the home team.
Nesbitt threw his first pick on the Yellow Jackets' first snap, but that was about the only thing they did wrong in the early going. The next time they got the ball at their own 18, Nesbitt pitched to Allen, who got a block from Thomas and was gone down the sideline.
Clemson drove to the Georgia Tech 38 and faced fourth-and-5. The Tigers sent on the field goal team, then called a timeout to consider their options. The one they chose backfired miserably. The field goal team came back on, but only to have Richard Jackson take a direct snap and try to surprise the Yellow Jackets with a punt.
They weren't fooled. Jerrard Tarrant came flying up to catch the line drive, broke a couple of tackles and didn't stop running until he had his second punt return for a touchdown in as many weeks, this one covering 85 yards.
“The punt was supposed to go out of bounds,” Swinney said. “I didn’t communicate that very well.”
Georgia Tech's chicanery worked a little better. After Clemson's second interception was wiped out by a video review, the Yellow Jackets sent back their offense, as if it planned to go for a fourth-and-13 at the Tigers 34. Then they sent out the field-goal unit, but Clemson didn't notice that Thomas remained on the field, stopping along the sideline. Blair took a direct snap and wobbled out a pass to Thomas, who was at least 20 yards in the clear. Chris Chancellor tried desperately to get back, but Thomas straight-armed him away to complete the 34-yard TD.
Blair tacked on a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 24-0.
Spiller hauled in the 14th scoring play of at least 50 yards in his career, giving Clemson some momentum before halftime. Clemson dominated the third quarter, scoring on back-to-back possessions to pull within 24-21. Then, in a stunner for the decked-in-white home crowd, Jackson converted from 21 and 53 yards early in the fourth to give the Tigers a lead.
At that point, Clemson had outgained Georgia Tech 319-91 in total yards since falling behind 24-0. But the Yellow Jackets finally converted on third down with about 10 minutes remaining after missing on their first nine attempts, which seemed to spark the option offense.
"We couldn't overcome the holding call," Swinney said. “That’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to overcome that. It hurt."