CLEMSON, S.C. --- Clemson linebacker Corico Hawkins still isn't sure what happened in December: How could a Tigers defense that forced six Georgia Tech punts earlier in the season not stop the Yellow Jackets when it mattered most in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game?
For Georgia Tech's triple option attack, the answer's usually as simple as one, two, three -- pitch, dive and quarterback. The Yellow Jackets showed that to perfection last year's ACC championship game, driving 86 yards on 13 plays for the winning touchdown with 1:20 left in a 39-34 victory over the Tigers.
"We all know it's assignment football," Hawkins, a sophomore, said in repeating the words he and his teammates have heard all week. "If you've got the pitchman, you've got the pitchman. If you've got the diveman, you've got the diveman. If you've got the quarterback, you've got the quarterback. It's not as complex as you might think."
Then again, it's made Georgia Tech (5-2, 3-1 ACC) the league's top rushing offense and one of the most efficient scorers The Yellow Jackets go after their fifth consecutive victory over Clemson (3-3, 1-2) at Death Valley on Saturday.
Clemson came into the ACC championship game confident it could slow Georgia Tech as it had during the regular season. Instead, Georgia Tech scored on eight of its first nine possessions, turning the ball over on downs only once.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wants his players to wipe their memories clean and concentrate on technique. Steele spent the first half of his 30-year career scheming to stop the option.
He explained how the decisions made by Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to keep the ball, pitch outside to a tailback or hand off straightahead to a fullback require more than half his defense to stop. That makes pressuring Nesbitt near impossible.
"We're already at six guys," Steele said. "There's only five left, so how exotic can you get?"