Clemson, SC – Death Valley claimed another victim Saturday, as Tajh Boyd totaled five touchdowns to carry No. 8 Clemson past No.5 Georgia, 38-35, on a humid night at Memorial Stadium.
The anticipated season opener between these top-ranked interconference foes began as a shootout and ended with the Tigers recovering a late onside kick to secure their first win over Georgia since 1990.
Clemson (1-0) finished last season with a win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and with Saturday's nail biter became the first non-SEC team to upend top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games.
Boyd, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, ran for two touchdowns and threw for three more while completing 18-of-30 passes for 270 yards.
His third touchdown pass went to Stanton Seckinger midway through the fourth quarter. Seckinger made an acrobatic play along the sideline and dove in for a the eventual game-deciding score.
"This was a great win. This was a gutsy win. The character and toughness that our guys showed tonight was something special," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Todd Gurley, despite leaving the game briefly to nurse a thigh injury, totaled 154 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries for Georgia (0-1), which was seconds away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game last season.
But just like their loss against Alabama in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs couldn't come up with the big play in crunch time.
Aaron Murray, who returned for his senior season for a shot at redemption, threw for 323 yards with an interception in the setback.
After Chandler Catanzaro's 24-yard kick put Clemson on top, 31-28, late in the third quarter, Georgia's next drive stalled in the red zone, and a high snap on a field goal attempt resulted in a turnover on downs.
An exchange of punts pinned the Tigers back at their own 13-yard line with 12:03 remaining, and 11 plays later they faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
It appeared as though Clemson was about to settle for another field goal when Seckinger was ruled out-of-bounds just before the goal line, but replay showed the receiver pivoted his right foot just before hitting the sideline. The play was overturned and Clemson was on top, 38-28, with 7:40 on the clock.
The Bulldogs punted their next time with the ball, and Clemson killed off nearly 3 1/2 minutes to all but seal the win.
Murray's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:19 to go gave Georgia hope, but Martavis Bryant snatched the onsides kick, and the orange-clad student body rushed the field to celebrate a monumental win.
"Clemson is a very good football team. They did what they had to do to win the football game," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said.
The teams combined for 1,012 yards and essentially mirrored each other in the back-and-forth first half.
Boyd called his own number on a delayed draw for a 4-yard touchdown run 5 1/2 minutes in, and on the next play from scrimmage, Gurley gashed Clemson's defense and sprung up the right sideline for a blistering 75-yard jaunt.
Sammy Watkins answered seconds later, as he took a short pass from Boyd, bulled over a defender and outran everyone else en route to a 77-yard score.
Georgia's Keith Marshall capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 4-yard run off an inside handoff that saw him carry two defenders across the goal line with 4:12 left in a breathless opening quarter.
Quayvon Hicks gave Georgia its first lead with a 1-yard plunge two minutes into the second quarter, but the Bulldogs went the next six possessions without scoring, which included Murray throwing an interception deep in Clemson territory late in the half.
Another Boyd TD, this one a tough 2-yard run, sent the teams into the break tied at 21 apiece.
While the pace slowed down a bit in the third quarter, points were still readily available. Boyd connected with Zac Brooks on a 31-yard strike with a defender draped over his back four minutes in, and Gurley went in from 12 yards out on the ensuing possession.
Georgia, which hosts No. 6 South Carolina next week, is 1-3 when starting on the road under Richt, with all three losses coming to top-10 ranked opponents ... Clemson had lost five straight meetings with Georgia ... Watkins caught six passes for 127 yards and muffed a punt ... Roderick McDowell led the Tigers with 132 yards on 22 carries ... Clemson recorded four sacks ... The Tigers host South Carolina State next weekend.