Most of the 81,000 at Death Valley, even from the edge of their seats, knew where this one was headed.
Sixteen times since 1990, the Clemson-Georgia Tech game had been decided by five points or fewer - many determined in the game's final sequence of plays. Eleven times, the Tigers had tasted the bitter disappointment of 'almost.'
On Saturday, the Tigers didn't let it happen.
Clemson's defense, run ragged all afternoon by Tech's option, finally said 'enough.'
The Tigers, having edged ahead 30-28 on Chandler Catanzaro's short field goal at the end of the third quarter, quickly found themselves under the gun again. Tech zipped off consecutive plays of 25 and 38 yards, and the Yellow Jackets had the ball, first and 10, at the Clemson 11.
The Tigers' first stand started when Spencer Shuey stuffed Tech's dive for no gain. On the next play, Corey Crawford chased down the pitch for a short gain. And on third down, Tig Willard covered a left-side lob perfectly, even with his back to the ball and the quarterback, timing his hit perfectly on Tech's receiver for a PBU.
The Yellow Jackets settled for a field goal, and a 31-30, lead. But worse damage had been averted.
Eight plays later, the Tigers were back in the end zone and, by the margin of a Nuk Hopkins to Tajh Boyd razzle-dazzle two-point conversion, led 38-31.
Clemson got a break when Tech muffed a kickoff at the goal line, and had to scramble to cover the football at the two.
On first down, Crawford knocked Washington's pass down in the end zone, but let a TD interception slip through his fingers.
On the next play, the Tigers did the next best thing, swarming Orwin Smith in the end zone on a left-side pitch, with Shuey finishing the job for a safety.
The Tigers led 40-31, and then put an end to the matter a few plays later with a blocked field goal by Josh Watson, and an 80-yard, 13-play drive for the clinching touchdown, highlighted by a pair of 13-yard, third-and-long runs by Boyd for conversions, and a 26-yard, third-and-12 dash by Rod McDowell to set up his own one-yard TD run.