Georgia Tech learned a valuable lesson without having to take a devastating loss.
If the Yellow Jackets ever get another big lead, they'd better not let up.
Scott Blair kicked a 36-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining to bail out No. 15 Georgia Tech, which squandered a 24-point lead but still managed to beat Clemson 30-27 Thursday night.
"I hope nobody left," coach Paul Johnson quipped. "We tried to make it exciting for everybody."
A little too exciting for the Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who needed a comeback of their own to set up another big league game next Thursday night at No. 20 Miami.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Parker threw three touchdown passes in his second college start, leading Clemson to 27 straight points. Richard Jackson gave the Tigers (1-1, 0-1) their first lead on a 53-yard field goal with 11:33 to go.
"When a team scores 27 unanswered points, that shows we let down a little bit," said Anthony Allen, who rushed for 127 yards on just five carries. "That's something we've got to work on. When we get the lead, we've got to keep on punching them in the mouth."
Blair was an unlikely star for the Yellow Jackets. He threw the first touchdown pass of his life, a 34-yarder to Demaryius Thomas off a fake field goal during Georgia Tech's early barrage, which gave the home team a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"I actually don't remember catching the ball or throwing the ball too much," Blair said with a big smile. "I guess it was dreamlike."
Then, he kicked the first game-winning field goal of his college career.
"I was just trying to treat it like a normal kick, not psych myself out," Blair said. "I wasn't paying attention to the score at all. I didn't want to think at the time that it was a game-winner. It was just another kick."
Georgia Tech, which did nothing offensively through most of the second and third quarters, finally regrouped for a 69-yard drive that set up Blair's tying kick, a 34-yarder with 5:40 left. Then, after a holding penalty on Clemson's Thomas Austin wiped out Parker's 38-yard completion to Jacoby Ford, the Yellow Jackets got a chance to win it.
Josh Nesbitt hooked up with Thomas for a 39-yard pass, making up for a miserable passing performance in which the Georgia Tech quarterback completed only 3 of 14 pass attempts for 83 yards with two interceptions. After Thomas' catch, the Yellow Jackets moved into position for Blair's winning kick.
Clemson overcame a nightmarish start. Parker, a redshirt freshman making only his second college start, threw for 261 yards and connected with C.J. Spiller on a 63-yard touchdown and Ford on a 77-yarder, sandwiched around a 9-yard scoring pass to Dwayne Allen.
Spiller rushed for 87 yards and caught four passes for 69 more. Ford had five catches for 109 yards.
"I'm proud of the way we played against a top 15 team on the road," Spiller said. "We kept thinking we would come back and get back in the game. You have to believe. You have to have faith."
Nesbitt threw his first pick on the Yellow Jackets' opening snap, but that was about the only thing they did wrong at the beginning. The next time they got the ball at their own 18, Nesbitt pitched to Anthony Allen, who got a block from Thomas and was gone down the sideline for an 82-yard touchdown.
"All I had to do was run," Allen said. "Everyone else did the hard stuff."
Clemson sent out Jackson for an apparent field goal, with orders to line drive a punt out of bounds. Instead, he kicked it low and short, which allowed Jerrard Tarrant to catch it on the fly, break a couple of tackles and set off on his second punt return for a touchdown in as many weeks, this one covering 85 yards.
Georgia Tech's chicanery worked a little better. Blair came on as if to try a long field goal and took a direct snap just like Jackson _ only the Yellow Jackets had their kicker throw the ball rather than punt it. Thomas had initially come on the field with the offense, then lingered on the field near the sideline when the field-goal unit was sent out.
No one on Clemson even noticed.
"I really don't know if there are ugly wins," Johnson said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but you know it is early in the year and I hope we are going to get better."