As we continue along with our top moments of the Paul Johnson era, we will look back at one of the bigger upsets of the past decade for the Jackets. Highlighted by several big plays on both sides of the ball, this is a game that every Yellow Jacket remembers.
2011 #6 Clemson 17 @ Georgia Tech 31
Many Georgia Tech fans remember the 2011 season as one of the bigger “what ifs” of the Paul Johnson era. A 6-0 start to the season had the Jackets in the top 15 but after that, the Jackets dropped a heartbreaker to UVA then had a terrible showing against Miami.
So the Jackets came into the game at 6-2, with absolutely no momentum, while Clemson came in red hot at 8-0 with 3 wins against the top 25. Tajh Boyd was also red hot and had a real chance at the Heisman trophy. Everything was setting up to be a Homecoming blowout under the lights at Bobby Dodd Stadium but, Paul Johnson and crew brought a few surprises to the dance floor.
The game started out as everyone had thought, GT had a 3 and out then Clemson marched down the field for a field goal. Georgia Tech followed with another 3 and out and things just weren’t looking good for the Jackets. Until Georgia Tech forced a fumble on a 3rd and 31 deep inside Clemson territory. The party had begun in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech went on to rattle off 24 straight points to take a 24-3 lead into the half. Obviously, the Tigers were not going to go down lightly. Tajh Boyd connected with Sammy Watkins on a 48 yard TD pass. The Jackets had to answer to switch the momentum and that they did. On a big 3rd and 6 play at their own 27, Tevin Washington scampered for 56 yards which lead to an Orwin Smith TD 2 plays later.
Again, to end the 3rd, Clemson let everyone know they were still fighting. After forcing a GT fumble at the Clemson 3, the Tigers went 97 yards in 10 plays for a TD. The two teams exchanged punts to start the 4th and the Jackets had the ball back up 14 with just over 10 minutes left. Paul Johnson tried to fool Clemson with a pass on the first play of the drive and Tevin Washington made a poor decision and Rashard Hall intercepted it and returned down to the GT 9. Yellow Jacket fans were beginning to think the game may slip away.
The Yellow Jacket defense needed to find a way to hold the Tigers to at least a field goal. Jemea Thomas had something else in mind. Tajh Boyd dropped back to pass on the first play and look to the back of the end zone. The Clemson receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, seemed to lose the ball while Jemea Thomas saw the ball the whole way and tiptoed his feet in bounds to come away with what ended up being the game-saving play.
Had Jemea Thomas not made that play, the score could have been 31-24 with Clemson having all the momentum. Instead, Tevin Washington led a 16 play death march that took 9 minutes off the clock and iced the game even though the drive ended with no points.
The Jemea Thomas interception in this game sometimes gets overlooked because of the all the crazy finishes in recent history. If this play had never happened, Clemson could have come back and won the game and possibly had finished the regular season a lot differently.
Moment number 8 will be released in the next couple of days so stay tuned!
Bret Anderson | @Bret_A27
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