By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — Clemson bolted to a 23-point halftime lead and eased past Georgia Tech 26-7 Thursday night, snapping a five-game losing streak against the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The victory was the 19th consecutive regular-season victory for No. 5 Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) and set up an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown against No. 3 Louisville on Oct. 1 at Clemson.
The Tigers had not won on Georgia Tech’s home field since 2003. Georgia Tech slipped to 3-1, 1-1.
Clemson’s offense dominated early, but it was the Tigers’ defense which owned the night. Clemson held Tech to 124 total yards, including 95 on the ground.
Georgia Tech entered the game averaging 8.1 yards per play, but the Yellow Jackets managed just 2.4 yards per play against the Tigers, who kept quarterback Justin Thomas on the run all night.
Thomas completed 4 of 13 passes for 29 yards and the Yellow Jackets converted just 2 of 12 third-down attempts.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson posted his first 300-yard passing game of the season, completing 32 of 48 attempts for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud had eight receptions for a career-best 101 yards.
Tech has played 240 games without being shut out — the seventh-longest active streak in the FBS — and avoided the shutout Thursday night by driving 89 yards in 11 plays to score on a 2-yard run by running back Dedrick Mills with 13:21 left in the game.
In the first half, it was all Clemson. The Tigers drove 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on their opening possession. Watson completed all five of his passes on the drive, which he capped with a four-yard scoring toss to Mike Williams.
The Tigers extended to lead to 14-0 two possessions later with a 62-yard drive capped by a one-yard run by Wayne Gallman, then scored on a rather unconventional safety. Watson was intercepted in the end zone by Georgia Tech’s Lance Austin, who brought the ball back out onto the field and was tackled by Williams at the 1-yard line before fumbling into the end zone. The fumble was recovered Tech, giving Clemson a safety and a 16-0 lead.
Clemson capped the first half by driving 72 yards for a 23-0 lead on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Jordan Leggett with 1:49 left in the first half.
Watson completed 24 of 35 passes for 262 yards in the first half, including seven completions for 90 yards to McCloud.
Tech managed only 25 yards rushing and minus-3 through the air in the first half.
NOTES: LB Kendall Joseph leads Clemson with 23 tackles and five tackles for loss. … Clemson WR Ray-Ray McCloud ranks second nationally in punt returns with a 23.5 average. … QB Deshaun Watson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a school-record 19 consecutive games. … Georgia Tech has played 240 consecutive games without being shutout, the seventh-longest active streak in the FBS. … Fifth-year senior QB Justin Thomas has made 30 consecutive starts under center for the Yellow Jackets. … Georgia Tech B-back Dedrick Mills had three touchdown runs last week, becoming the first true freshman to score three touchdowns in a game in coach Paul Johnson’s nine seasons.