No 4 Clemson overcomes sluggish start, beats Ga Tech 41-10


ATLANTA (AP) — DJ Uiagalelie threw for one touchdown and ran for another, overcoming a sluggish start in the season opener as No. 4 Clemson pulled away for a 41-10 victory over Georgia Tech on Monday night.

Uiagalelie completed 19 of 32 passes for 209 yards, including a 6-yard scoring play to Beaux Collins that gave the Tigers a two-touchdown lead in the first half.

Georgia Tech, looking to improve on three straight three-win seasons that have put coach Geoff Collins on the hot seat, kept it closer than expected much of the way.

But the Yellow Jackets couldn't overcome two blocked punts, both of which led to short touchdown runs by Will Shipley.

Georgia Tech pulled within 14-10 on an impressive drive in the third quarter, culminating with Jeff Sims tossing a 13-yard TD pass to 6-foot-7 transfer E.J. Jenkins.

But Uiagalelie, in what was probably the play of the game, appeared headed for a sack when he was cornered by two Georgia Tech defenders on the third-and-4. But the quarterback managed to stay upright just long enough to flip a lateral to Shipley, who rumbled 10 yards to keep the Clemson offense on the field.

“I was trying to get out of the pocket, trying to buy some time to get the ball away,” Uiagalelie said. “As I was going to the ground I looked to my left and saw Shipley there. I just pitched it to him. He made a great run.”

The Tigers drove 74 yards for a touchdown that finally buried the Yellow Jackets. Uiagalelie ran it in from 9 yards out to push Clemson's lead to 24-10.

“I'm really happy with DJ,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “Hey, they made a little run. Next thing you know, it's a little tight. The offense has to answer.”

Clemson scored its first touchdown off special teams after both teams had early struggles on offense.

Carson Donnelly broke through the line untouched and smothered a punt by David Shanahan. Brannon Specter scooped up the ball at the Georgia Tech 18 and took it down the 5 before he was knocked out of bounds.

Sims threw an interception on Georgia Tech's first play of the season, an ill-advised deep pass while under pressure that was picked off by Andrew Mukuba.

The Yellow Jackets' third-year quarterback is considered a key to the team's chances of a turnaround season, so much so that Collins brought in Chip Long as offensive coordinator and Chris Weinke as quarterbacks coach with the specific goal of getting more consistent play out of Sims.

He showed flashes both throwing and running, but it wasn't nearly enough to pull off the upset. Sims threw for 164 yards and led the team in rushing with 41 yards.