Sept. 12, 2002
It may not be possible to predict the winner of Saturday’s nationally televised game between Georgia Tech and Clemson, but if statistics and trends mean anything, it should be easy to predict the margin of victory.
Why should this year’s game be any different than the last six meetings between these two Atlantic Coast Conference rivals?
Tech and the Tigers kick off at 12 noon at Clemson Memorial Stadium, and the contest will be nationally televised on ESPN. Radio coverage on the Georgia Tech-ISP Radio network is available in the Atlanta area on flagship station 790 the Zone (WQXI-AM) as well as South 107.1 (WSTH-FM) and Magic 98.1 (WMGP-FM).
Georgia Tech has won four of the last five meetings to take a 43-21-2 lead in the series, which began in 1898, but the two teams have split the last 10 games. Amazingly, the last six meetings have all been decided by exactly three points, including four straight Tech wins from 1997-2000.
The last three games have been high-scoring affairs with an aggregate score of Georgia Tech 120, Clemson 117.
The string of close calls began with Clemson’s 28-25 victory in 1996 before the Yellow Jackets reeled off four straight three-point wins from 1997 through 2000.
In 1997 in Atlanta, Tech’s heroes were wide receiver Harvey Middleton, who returned a punt 21 yards and then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton at the five-yard line, and placekicker Brad Chambers, who booted a 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left gave Tech a 23-20 win over the 17th-ranked Tigers.
The following year, Joe Burns scored on a one-yard run with 1:00 left to give Tech a 24-21 victory in a Thursday night game at Death Valley.
In 1999 in Atlanta, Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns in the Jackets 45-42 victory, but it was Tech safety Chris Young who saved the win by batting down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line on fourth-and-seven with less than three minutes to play.
Those four games were just a prelude to the last two shootouts.
The last time the two teams met at Clemson, Kerry Watkins’ spectacular, one-handed grab for a 16-yard touchdown with just seven seconds left lifted Tech to a 31-28 victory over the fourth-ranked Tigers as Tech quarterback George Godsey guided the Jackets on two 80-yard scoring drives in the final 10 minutes.
Clemson returned the favor with a dramatic victory of its own last year in Atlanta. In a game that featured 10 lead changes, quarterback Woody Dantzler’s 11-yard touchdown run in overtime gave the Tigers a 47-44 victory. Tech had forced overtime with Luke Manget’s 20-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation.
Other close games in the series’ recent history include Tech’s 21-19 victory in 1990, in which Clemson kicker Chris Gardocki missed from 60 yards in the final minute, and the Tigers’ 9-7 win the following year, in which Scott Sisson missed a 44-yard field goal with just three seconds left.