Atlanta Scott Blair had never thrown a touchdown pass. Scratch that one off the list.
He’d never kicked a game-winner for Georgia Tech. Took care of that one, too.
Blair threw a touchdown pass off a fake field goal, then booted a 36-yard kick with 57 seconds remaining as the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Clemson, 30-27, after squandering a 24-point lead Thursday night.
“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.”
Hardly. Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) pulled itself back from the brink of a potentially devastating loss that looked like an easy victory early on. The Yellow Jackets raced to a 24-0 lead 41⁄2 minutes into the second quarter.
But Clemson (1-1, 0-1) scored 27 straight points, taking its first lead of the night on Richard Jackson’s 53-yard field goal with 11:33 to go.
“I’m proud of the way we played against a top 15 team on the road,” C.J. Spiller said. “We kept thinking we would come back and get back in the game. You have to believe. You have to have faith.”
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 Kyle Parker’s 38-yard completion to Jacoby Ford, the Yellow Jackets got a chance to win it.
Josh Nesbitt hooked up with Demaryius Thomas for a 39-yard pass, making up for a miserable passing performance in which the Georgia Tech quarterback completed only three of 14 for 83 yards with two interceptions. After Thomas’ catch, the Yellow Jackets moved into position for Blair’s winning kick.
Blair also threw a wobbly 34-yard touchdown pass during Georgia Tech’s early barrage. The Tigers didn’t spot Demaryius Thomas lingering near the sideline on an apparent field goal attempt, and Blair connected on a pass that wasn’t pretty but did the job.
“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.”
Clemson overcame the nightmarish start. Parker, a redshirt freshman making only his second college start, threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with Spiller on a 63-yarder and Ford on a 77-yarder, sandwiched around a nine-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.
“We’ll learn from this,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “This loss won’t beat us twice.”
Anthony Allen led Georgia Tech with 127 yards rushing on just five carries, including an 82-yard touchdown.
Nesbitt threw his first pick on the Yellow Jackets’ opening snap, but that was about the only thing they did wrong at the beginning.