CLEMSON — Georgia Tech could run but the Yellow Jackets couldn’t hide from Clemson on a cold Thursday night in Death Valley.
Tajh Boyd became the ACC’s all-time touchdown pass leader and Tech’s vaunted spread option was spread so thin it couldn’t keep pace in a 55-31 Tiger romp in front of 75,324 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Venables' defense limits GT options
Boyd finished 20-26-1 for 340 yards and four touchdowns, the 17th 300-plus yard game of his career.
He is the first ACC QB to amass 10,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.
Boyd took a hard hit on his last play of the night (a 7-yard run) and suffered a left collarbone injury, leaving Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly to close out the game.
“It’s one of those things where it sounded a lot worse than it actually is,” Boyd said. “Going down to the ground it was cracking and all, but I feel fine. I had some x-rays and everything is all good.”
The win improves No. 8 Clemson to 9-1 overall and it finishes its ACC duties with a 7-1 mark, while Georgia Tech falls to 6-4, 5-3.
Paul Johnson’s rushing crew racked up 248 yards but was limited to just 72 in the first half, with 32 coming on one run.
Inside, outside or up the middle, the flexbone had little opportunity to flex its muscles against a swarming defense that seemed to snuff it out at every turn in the early going.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder,” defensive end Vic Beasley said. “We knew we had to play well. I think we came out tonight and executed what we’d been practicing.”
Considering Boyd and company began piling up points with relative ease after a slow start, Tech was truly in a no-win situation.
The home team had 551 yards and 168 of them came on the ground.
“For us to be able to run the ball for nearly 170 yards, my hat’s off to the o-line,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “And Tajh just keeps breaking records around here. Our guys are playing well. That’s the most points we’ve scored against Georgia Tech since 1903 (a 73-0 Clemson win) when John Heisman was coach here.”
The Jackets finally found their footing a bit after spotting Clemson a 27-10 lead.
A-back Robert Godhigh, who netted 126 yards rushing and 103 more receiving in the loss, ripped off a 65-yard TD run on Tech’s second possession of the third quarter, and the PAT cut the deficit to 27-17.
The Tigers answered back on the next drive.
With Boyd throwing, Rod McDowell running and Martavis Bryant catching, Dabo Swinney’s team moved 71 yards in six plays, getting points on Boyd’s 1-yard sneak at 10:13 of the third.
Bryant, the T.L. Hanna graduate who had a career night with 176 yards on five receptions, caught a 33-yard pass on the series that put his team three feet from the end zone.
“It felt good for my work to finally pay off,” Bryant said. “As I keep playing the game I keep getting better. Now it’s just going back to work on Monday and keep improving.”
After a defensive stop — one in which Godhigh was popped by Corey Crawford for no gain on a fourth-and-2 at the Tech 44 — Clemson wasted no time inflating its cushion.
Boyd connected with Sammy Watkins on a 44-yard pitch-and-catch for six, and the kick put this one well out of reach at 41-17.
Watkins snagged five balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think we played well as a unit,” Watkins said. “We didn’t run the ball that well in the first half but we came out and made a statement in the second half. Tajh did a great job and Cole came in and played well, too. We stayed in a rhythm and played good football.”
The scoring continued in the final quarter, and as was the case throughout the evening Clemson did most of it to put an exclamation point on a 24-point blowout.
“Well, the bottom line is we got our tails beta today,” Johnson said. “They beat us in all phases of the game and we got off to a terrible start offensively in the first quarter.”
Clemson’s first six points came off the leg of Chandler Catanzaro, who hit a 40-yard field goal early in the first quarter and added a 51-yarder — his longest as a collegian — later in the frame.
But the Tigers finally hit paydirt in the second quarter, setting it up with a converted fourth-and-1 from the Georgia Tech 43 and finishing it off with a Boyd to Watkins connection that was good for 41 yards and a score at 14:01 of the period.
The reception put Watkins over the 1,000-yard mark for the 2013 campaign, making him just the second Tiger (the other was Rod Gardner) to eclipse the plateau in two different seasons. He also became the first CU receiver to have seven 100-plus yard games.
Boyd followed up that TD toss with a 47-yarder gainer to Bryant, which led to a 4-yard touchdown strike to Mike Williams on the next snap.
Catanzaro kicked the tally to 20-0 and Tech was in a hole 9:03 before halftime.
Boyd’s long throw was his 818th completion, the most in school history, while his second scoring aerial was his 95th, pulling him even with former North Carolina State great Philip Rivers for most ever in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
With the game starting to get away from them the Jackets showed some fight on the ensuing drive.
Marching 82 yards in seven plays — the biggest a 32- yard scamper by Godhigh — David Sims plunged over from the 1 at 6:33 and the extra point closed the gap to 20-7.
Boyd fine after scary injury
After X-rays, injury just to collarbone
The gap widened less than a minute later.
Boyd established a new ACC TD pass record at 96 when he threw a picture perfect bomb to Bryant, who cradled in the spiral and completed a 76-yard touchdown junket by speeding his way past the Georgia Tech defense.
The kick made it 27-7; the victors-in-waiting settled for a 27-10 cushion at intermission when Harrison Butker kicked a 33-yard field goal for the Jackets as time expired in the first half.
“I’m so proud of our guys … this was a great win,” Swinney said. This is actually three great wins in a row. We’re playing our best football of the year right now.”
Clemson hosts The Citadel next Saturday at noon and then closes out the regular season on Nov. 30 at South Carolina.