ATLANTA — Tevin Washington rushed for 176 yards and broke the two longest runs of his career, leading Georgia Tech to a 31-17 upset of No. 6 Clemson and likely snuffing out the Tigers’ national title hopes Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) raced to a 24-3 halftime lead and held off Clemson (8-1, 5-1) which was off to its best start since 2000, The Tigers had climbed to fifth in the BCS standings, but they figure to take a tumble and are unlikely to have enough game left to re-enter the national race.
The Yellow Jackets snapped a two-game losing streak behind their junior quarterback, who had runs of 46 and 56 yards and touchdown among his 27 carries.
He took a final knee and celebrated with Georgia Tech students who stormed the field.
Clemson, which had scored 115 points in its two previous games, turned it over four times. Tajh Boyd threw for 295 yards, and freshman Sammy Watkins had 10 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t enough.
Coming in, these were teams heading in opposite directions.
Georgia Tech got off to a dynamic start, winning the first six games for its best start since 1966. But Washington slumped and the triple-option bogged down badly, leading to losses at Virginia and Miami.
Clemson got off to a sluggish start with lackluster wins against Troy and Wofford. But a victory over defending national champion Auburn seemed to ignite the Tigers, who took command of the ACC race and arrived in Atlanta having put up a total of 115 points and 1,026 yards in wins over Maryland and North Carolina the two previous weeks.
The Tigers looked like they might have a chance to go for their first national title since 1981 if things broke their way.
But those hopes are likely dashed now.
Clemson drove right down the field on its first possession before Georgia Tech stiffened at its own 16. Chandler Catanzaro came on to knock through a 34-yard field goal, and the high-flying Tigers appeared off to another big offensive performance, but it wasn’t to be.