(Saturday, December 5th)
Final Score: (12) Georgia Tech 39, (25) Clemson 34
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Jonathan Dwyer ran in the game-winning score with 1:20 to play as 12th-ranked Georgia Tech won the ACC Championship with a thrilling 39-34 win over 25th-ranked Clemson at Raymond James Stadium.
Dwyer had two touchdowns in the game and finished the contest with 110 yards on 24 carries. Josh Nesbitt was 9-for-16 passing with 136 yards and a score along with 22 carries for 103 yards and a TD for the Yellow Jackets (11-2), who won their first conference title outright since 1990.
It also secured the Yellow Jackets a trip to the Orange Bowl.
"I think that when we took the job at Georgia Tech, this is the reason we took it, to have a chance to compete and go to BCS Bowl games," said Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson. "It's like I told our guys in the locker room, I'm proud to be their coach. They've worked hard. They deserve it, and now we've got to get ready to go represent the ACC."
The Tigers' (8-5) loss ruined what was a brilliant performance from running back C.J. Spiller, who finished the game with a career-high 233 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries. Kyle Parker went 10-for-17 with 91 yards while Andre Ellington also had a score on the ground for Clemson, which hasn't won a conference title since 1991.
"I wouldn't say they stopped us. It was a shootout, but unfortunately we just couldn't get the ball enough," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "And then we had a couple of turnovers on offense that allowed them to get a couple extra possessions in there. But that certainly was the key."
Georgia Tech had blown a 13-point lead and trailed by a point with 6:11 to play, but that was plenty of time for the team to come back and take the lead.
Starting at its own 14, the team had to convert a fourth down as Nesbitt got two yards when he needed one. Nesbitt then hit Dwyer for 21 yards to get it near midfield. Several plays later, the team was facing a 2nd-and-5 at the Clemson 15. Dwyer took the ball around the left end and raced down the sideline into the end zone with 1:20 to play. Nesbitt then kept it on a run up the middle for the two-point conversion, but a review ruled that he was down before crossing the goal line and it was a 39-34 game.
"I think we just went out there and just realized that we're not going to lose this game," aid Dwyer. "There's no way that we're going to lay down and give up. Everybody was boosting everybody up, telling everybody we're going to score, we're going to make a play, and we just went out there and did it."
Clemson's bid for a game-winning drive fell short as Parker was stopped short of a first down on a 4th-and-2 play and Georgia Tech killed off the rest of the clock.
Trailing by 13 points late in the third quarter, the Tigers needed a strong drive and got it to make it a six-point contest. The 10-play, 72-yard drive featured two fourth down conversions, one of them courtesy of a pass interference call, and was capped on a Spiller nine-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to make it a 33-27 contest with 12 minutes to play in the game.
The Clemson defense came up with a big stop on Georgia Tech's next possession as the unit stuffed a 4th-and-1 to give the offense the ball back at its own 37.
On the first snap, Spiller continued to embarrass the Yellow Jackets defense as he took a handoff, found a seam and raced down the left sideline for 54 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the nine-yard line. Spiller moved the ball eight more yards on the next two plays before being spelled by Ellington, who leaped over the pile and into the end zone from a yard out for a 34-33 lead with 6:11 to play.
Clemson started the game with the ball and got a 40-yard run down the left sideline from Spiller to get the ball into the red zone. Three plays later, Spiller danced his way into the end zone around the right side for a 7-0 lead just 3:36 in.
Roddy Jones had carries of 21 and 22 yards on the first two plays of Georgia Tech's first touch to get the ball past midfield. The drive, though, stalled at the Clemson 31 and Scott Blair's 48-yard field goal made it a 7-3 game with 7:30 left in the first.
In a drive that spanned the first and second quarters, the Yellow Jackets took a 10-7 lead as Dwyer bulled his way through the defense around the left side on a four-yard score.
Parker was picked off by Dominique Reese on the first play of the Tigers' ensuing drive. The Yellow Jackets proceeded to eat up almost eight minutes of the clock and had a 1st-and-goal at the Clemson eight, but two false starts followed by a holding call pushed them back 20 yards and the team had to settle for a 49-yard field goal from Blair for a 13-7 lead with 5:35 left in the first half.
Clemson answered quickly as, on the fifth play of the drive, Spiller raced down the left sideline and into the end zone on a 41-yard score with 2:55 left. However, the extra point attempt was botched and it was a tie game.
The Yellow Jackets, though, had plenty of time before the break and with six seconds left on the clock Blair kicked his third field goal of the half, a 28- yarder that gave his team a 16-13 lead.
Georgia Tech started the second half with the ball and used an 11-play drive that killed almost six minutes of clock time as Nesbitt kept the ball himself through the left side on a 13-yard run for a 23-13 lead with 9:12 to play in the third.
Clemson again went to its bread-and-butter as Spiller scored his third touchdown of the game on a 36-yard run down the left side to get the deficit to three points with 6:39 left in the third.
However, Georgia Tech needed just three plays to answer as, on 3rd-and-10, Nesbitt heaved the ball up for Demaryius Thomas, who came down with the ball, broke away from his defender and raced into the end zone on a 70-yard score for a 30-20 lead.
On the ensuing touch, Clemson turned the ball over as Parker was pressured and threw an errant pass that Jerrard Tarrant picked off and returned 50 yards to the Clemson 28. A 40-yard field goal from Blair with 1:11 to play in the third made it a 33-20 game.
Georgia Tech owns a 49-24-2 advantage in the all-time series with Clemson, and the Yellow Jackets have won the last four meetings, and six of the last seven overall...Thomas finished the game with two catches for 77 yards...Jacoby Ford led the Clemson receiving corps with three catches for 32 yards...There was a total of 883 yards on offense, 656 on the ground.
12/06 02:08:13 ET