Georgia Tech takes ACC title
TAMPA - Clemson senior running back C.J. Spiller put on a show for the ages at Saturday night's ACC Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. How about four touchdowns and a career-high 233 yards rushing? He couldn't be stopped. But neither could the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.After scoring on their first seven possessions, then allowing Clemson to surge ahead following a failed fourth-down play, the Yellow Jackets mounted a 13-play, 86-yard drive for the winning touchdown with 1:20 remaining, defeating the heartbroken Tigers 39-34. "We never, ever thought we were going to lose the game," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "It makes you sick. It's sickening. We just couldn't stop them at the end. We needed to make one more play." In the end, Clemson didn't have quite enough in a game that featured zero punts, countless breathtaking moments and a combined 883 yards of offense. Georgia Tech (11-2) earned a trip to the Orange Bowl, its first trip there since the 1966 season. Clemson (8-5) is likely headed to the Dec. 27 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. Jonathan Dwyer's 15-yard touchdown run gave Georgia Tech a 39-34 lead on a drive that included a fourth-down conversion (quarterback Josh Nesbitt got 2 yards on fourth-and-1). But there was still 1:20 remaining with Clemson (and Spiller) lurking. "No question, it was hairy there at the end," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. The Tigers, backed up by a penalty, reached a fourth-and-2 at their 43-yard line. Quarterback Kyle Parker, dropping to throw and finding no one open, tried to run for the first down, but he was stopped for no gain by Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan with 29 seconds remaining. "I couldn't be prouder of our football team," Johnson said. "We took that (final) drive down to the end zone and came up with a stop (on Clemson's fourth-down play). Great players make plays at the end." "We're hurting right now," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "One day, we will grow from this and learn from it. Right now, we're hurting. I'm sure it was a great game to watch." Spiller, named the game's Most Valuable Player in a losing cause, made certain about that. He had 20 rushes for 233 yards (an 11.6-yard average), including touchdown runs of 3, 41, 36 and 9 yards. Overall, he finished with 296 all-purpose yards, putting him in third place all-time (7,411 yards) in the Football Bowl Subdivision. After Nesbitt was stopped for no gain on a fourth-down play at the Clemson 37-yard line - with Georgia Tech leading 33-27 - Spiller immediately answered and had a 54-yard run that set up Clemson's go-ahead touchdown, a 1-yard dive by Andre Ellington with 6:11 remaining. "I wouldn't say they stopped us," Swinney said. "It was a shootout. We didn't stop them much either." Georgia Tech rushed for 333 yards - getting 110 from Dwyer and 103 from Nesbitt. Everyone took a back seat to Spiller. "C.J. played a great game," Johnson said. "He's a tremendous player." Then he added, with a slight touch of glee, "I wish him the best in the NFL."
Reporter Joey Johnston can be reached at (813) 259-7353.