It wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty. But by the end of Monday night, Dabo Swinney and No. 4 Clemson could breathe a little easier.
After a subpar first-half display, the Tigers found life in the second. And it was that second-half showing that led them to a resounding 41-10 victory over Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Before Monday’s contest, the spotlight was fixed on Clemson’s quarterback battle. DJ Uiagalelei failed to impress last year as the Tigers (1-0, 1-0 ACC) missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time in six years. And with five-star talent Cade Klubnik waiting in the wings, the pressure was on.
Uiagalelei took some time to get into the game, but as Swinney opened up the playbook, the junior began to flourish. He grabbed a pair of touchdowns — one by air, one by foot — as the Tigers stretched their lead.
DJ stared down a defender on this TD 👀 pic.twitter.com/HIPBzEjzlH
Clemson’s all-world defensive front seven looked every bit the part, raising hell for Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims. From the opening salvo, Sims was under pressure. And although the Sims found success, the Yellow Jackets’ offense couldn’t quite find its rhythm.
Once the Tigers got rolling, they were hard to stop. Ultimately, that afforded Swinney an opportunity to get Klubnik some run to close the game.
It was garbage time and Georgia Tech (0-1, 0-1 ACC) has won just three games in each of the past three seasons, but Klubnik looked good. He completed 4 of 6 passes, including a 3-yard touchdown toss to Will Taylor that punctuated the Tigers’ second-half dominance.
Cade Klubnik with his first career TD pass and DJ Uiagalelei was LOVING it 🤩 pic.twitter.com/QnZ8cMH6Zx
MORE: Watch Clemson vs. Georgia Tech live with fuboTV (free trial)
The Sporting News tracked live updates from Clemson vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Below are the updates, results and highlights from Monday’s ACC game.
(All times Eastern)
11:33 p.m.: And that will do it from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Clemson rolls to a 41-10 victory under the lights!
11:26 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, Clemson. After fitting an 18-yard pass to Drew Swinney into a donut hole, Klubnik finds the end zone. The freshman slings a pass to Will Taylor, who walks it in easily from three yards out.
The first of many, hopefully. It’s 41-10, Clemson.
11:24 p.m.: Now, Klubnik shows off the wheels. The five-star wideout jinks left and right to get a five-yard gain and a first down. He’s up quickly, too — looks like he has something to prove.
11:23 p.m.: Klubnik makes his first competition as a Clemson player. It’s about as good as one could expect — Klubnik rolled out right before firing a pass right into Will Taylor’s gloves. Looked pretty smooth there.
11:21 p.m.: With the game seemingly out of reach, Swinney gives Cade Klubnik his first bit of college football action.
11:13 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, Clemson. Clemson makes Georgia Tech pay for yet another special teams foible, with Shipley tiptoeing into the end zone from three yards out.
A good second half response by the Tigers, who now lead 34-10.
11:11 p.m.: BLOCKED PUNT! For the second time in the game, Clemson has blocked a punt. This time, it was true freshman Wade Woodaz who deflected the ball off of Shanahan’s foot. Clemson will have time to add some more points to the scoreboard.
11:04 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, Clemson. Despite having to defend from their 32, the Yellow Jackets’ defense held strong, forcing Clemson into another field goal try. However, with no timeouts remaining and precious few answers for the Tigers’ front seven, it’s not looking too good for Georgia Tech. Clemson’s up 27-10.
10:58 p.m.: . . . And it won’t get it! Clemson holds as Hall trips over Sims on fourth down, dropping to the turf. The Tigers will get the ball back with a chance to salt the game away.
10:57 p.m.: Sims makes another decent throw, this time on an out route. However, the ball sails through his target’s hands. Georgia Tech needs a first down here.
10:54 p.m.: With 13 minutes left and nearly 90 yards to pay dirt, Sims and the Yellow Jackets have a lot to do. However, Sims showcased the arm talent once more, dotting a ball right in Malachi Carter’s numbers. That’s a 21-yard gain right there.
10:46 p.m.: Clemson comes out the gate like gangbusters with a pair of chunk plays. First, Uiagalelei zips a pass to Pace for eight. Then, he made the best pass he’s thrown all night, finding Davis Allen with a delicate touch pass. Allen did the rest, picking up 28 yards in the process.
Quiet as it’s kept, Uiagalelei has showed good composure over the past two quarters. Looking more and more like the QB Clemson fans had hoped would come in last season.
10:41 p.m.: Georgia Tech gets the ball back but proceeds to lay an egg, posting another three-and-out. Clemson should get the ball before the end of the period.
10:36 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN! Uiagalelei uses the wheels, showing pass before putting it in his pocket for a pre-designed run. He moonwalks to end zone to nab his second touchown of the day.
10:33 p.m.: Some razzle-dazzle from Uiagalelei gets Clemson a first down! The Tigers QB looked bottled up in the backfield. However, after moving left and right in the pocket, he tosses a pitch to Shipley, who proceeds to barrel through a few Georgia Tech defenders en route to another first down.
10:30 p.m.: Sims takes the ball to the doorstep of the first down marker. However, Tech is unable to do more than that, eventually punting the ball back to the Tigers.
10:29 p.m.: Tech’s Hassan Hall takes a massive hit after reeling in a pass behind the line of scrimmage. Looks like he’s good to go, but he did lose four yards on the play.
10:25 p.m.: FIELD GOAL, Clemson. Clemson crept into the red zone but were unable to make Georgia Tech pay, with the Yellow Jackets’ defense holding firm. All the Tigers could get was a chip shot field goal to expand their lead to 17-10.
10:20 p.m.: The Tigers are making Georgia Tech pay for its penalty, moving the ball down the field with relative ease. Clemson have nabbed three first downs in quick succession, taking the ball to Georgia Tech’s 22.
10:15 p.m.: It seemed the Yellow Jackets were on the precipice of inducing another three-and-out. However, on third-and-long, Georgia Tech was called for pass interference, negating the incompletion and giving Clemson a new set of downs. You don’t want to make mistakes like that against the No. 4 team in the nation.
10:08 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, Georgia Tech. Sims and Georgia Tech take advantage of the lengthy drive, with the QB dropping a delicate pass into EJ Jenkins’ hands for a touchdown.
Things are getting interesting now. That’s 10 unanswered points by Georgia Tech, which trails 14-10.
10:05 p.m.: Tech gets the first down! Sims completes a pass over the middle to Malik Rutherford, keeping the Yellow Jackets’ drive alive.
10:02 p.m.: After another solid scamper by Smith, the Yellow Jackets are going for it on fourth down! Looks like they’re really gunning for it now.
10:01 p.m.: Henry brings Sims to the turf for yet another Tigers sack, sending the ball into the turf in the process. The Yellow Jackets recover, but that Clemson front seven is causing them some real problems.
10 p.m.: Smith rumbles for 11 yards, jinking in all sorts of different directions before being brought down. Decent start for the Yellow Jackets.
9:58 p.m.: Clemson opens up the third quarter with a dud, going three-and-out before sending the ball back to Georgia Tech.
9:36 p.m.: First-half stats:
9:33 p.m.: Bizarrely, Collins decided to not use a timeout after the referees enforce a 10-second run out. The Yellow Jackets had 43 seconds left to potentially make something happen and have showed more life on the offensive side of things in recent possessions.
Nonetheless, the clock dwindles to zero, and the two sides enter halftime with the Tigers leading 14-3.
Not a classic by any means, but still plenty of football left to be played in Atlanta.
9:29 p.m.: Big call here for the Yellow Jackets. Tech stopped the Tigers on fourth down, seemingly setting up a Clemson punt. However, there were initial concerns that Yellow Jackets safety Jaylon King had targeted the receiver.
Fortunately for King and Georgia Tech, the call was reversed, meaning King stays on the field and it’s fourth down.
9:26 p.m.: Clemson is working the ball down the field with its two-minute drill. Uiagalelei with some decent short passing so far. We’ll have to see if the Tigers air it out a bit with the clock dwindling.
9:22 p.m.: FIELD GOAL! Kelley’s 45-yard field goal splits the uprights, giving Georgia Tech its first points of the game. Clemson now leads 14-3.
9:20 p.m.: (Georgia Tech timeout)
9:19 p.m.: Sims slides through the line and picks up some decent yardage with the QB keeper. However, he’s unable to reach the sticks. It’s fourth down on Clemson’s 28. A little more than a minute left in the half.
9:17 p.m.: Nate Wiggins will want that one back. Sims took a huge hit on his delivery, gifting Wiggins the chance to snag an easy pick-six.
But the ball slipped through his grasp, falling harmlessly to the ground. That one is going to sting.
9:15 p.m.: Looks like Tech is showing a little more urgency on offense. Sims tosses a smooth pass to McCollum, who carves out a 15-yard gain. No huddle in effect from Sims and the Jackets.
9:10 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, Clemson. Uiagalelei rolls out to the right before finding Collins, who eludes his defender with a precise route.
Uiagalelei showed flashes of his potential on that drive. Looked like a different player. That’s got to fill him — and Swinney — with confidence. It’s 14-0, Clemson.
9:08 p.m.: That’s more like it from Uiagalelei. First, he shows off the arm, dropping a ball right into Collins’ hands for 26 yards. Then, he finds Shipley on a dump off and gains 14 yards.
Lastly, Uiagalelei makes a defender miss on a QB draw, netting 12 yards in the process. Clemson is on the doorstep of the end zone once more.
9:05 p.m.: Dabo Swinney’s play calling has been…interesting so far. Lots of short distance throws on the docket so far. For all of Uiagalelei’s struggles early, you’d think Swinney would let him air the ball out a little more.
9:03 p.m.: After a third down stand by the Tigers, Yellow Jackets kicker Jude Kelley steps on the field to take a 50-yard field goal.
Snap is good, kick is in the air and . . . it’s wide right. Georgia Tech remains scoreless and Clemson will get the ball in decent field position.
9:02 p.m.: Sims evades contact to pick up a handful of yards. He’s shown the dual-threat ability he possesses on this drive.
9:01 p.m.: The penalties are racking up for Georgia Tech. That’s another false start, the Yellow Jackets’ sixth flag of the day. It’s going to be hard to beat the Tigers with that many mistakes.
9 p.m.: Sims shows off the arm talent, firing a pass into Nate McCollum’s stride. That’s a 20 yard gain and Tech finally is in Clemson’s half.
8:59 p.m.: Another clever move by Smith, who spins past a would-be tackler to get another six yards.
8:58 p.m.: Dontae Smith shows off the agility, juking past Bresee en route to a six-yard gain. Better from Georgia Tech.
8:57 p.m.: The ball sails on Sims a bit. But 6’7′ EJ Jenkins rises to snag the five-yard pass. That’s some real progress given how poor the Yellow Jackets’ offense has looked early.
8:54 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN, Clemson. Tailback Will Shipley sneaks through a gap behind offensive lineman Jordan McFadden’s block and finds the end zone on fourth down. That’s more like it from the Tigers, who go up 7-0.
8:52 p.m.: (Timeout Clemson)
8:51 p.m.: The Yellow Jackets’ defense is locked in. Tech’s front seven shuts down Phil Mafah on consecutive runs before getting of Uiagalelei after he takes a stumble near the goal line. It’s fourth and goal and Clemson looks like it’s going to go for it!
8:49 p.m.: BLOCKED PUNT! Tyler Davis slips through the coverage and gets his paws on David Shanahan’s punts. It’s scooped up by Brannon Spector who takes it to the doorstep of the goal line. Just what the Tigers needed!
8:48 p.m.: Sims carved out a little yardage on second and third-down. However, Tech will send the ball back to Clemson via punt.
8:46 p.m.: Georgia Tech unable to get out of its own way at the moment. After losing eight yards on a run play that was broken up behind the line, the Yellow Jackets receive back-to-back false starts. 2nd-and-23 deep in Georgia Tech’s territory.
8:44 p.m.: Uiagalelei does well to evade pressure in the pocket, but is unable to find anyone down the field. He shuffles a pass to Kobe Pace, who is stopped short of the first down marker. Yet another three-and-out, this time to start the second quarter.
8:39 p.m.: Uiagalelei takes the snap attempts to run for some yardage. But as was the case throughout the opening frame, he was stuffed at the line by the Yellow Jackets’ front seven. That will spend the end of a dour first quarter. We’re still deadlocked 0-0.
8:37 p.m.: For all of the Yellow Jackets’ early defensive success, they have been pretty toothless on offense. Another three-and-out for Georgia Tech sends the ball back to Clemson. Not a classic affair so far.
8:35 p.m.: Uiagalelei goes down! Georgia Tech rushes him with four-man rush and sends him crashing to the turf. That’s another three-and-out for the Tigers offense. Uiagalelei hasn’t been too hot early.
8:34 p.m.: The Yellow Jackets stuff the run. Solid showing by Tech’s defense early.
8:33 p.m.: Uiagalelei sends a pass out of bounds after failing to find an open receiver.
8:28 p.m.: Georgia Tech doesn’t make anything happen after its early-drive first downs. After a pair of penalties and some ugly plays that went backwards, the Yellow Jackets will send it back to Clemson via punt.
8:26 p.m.: Another QB sneak for Sims, who gets the necessary yardage to secure a first down. Brave play-calling by head coach Geoff Collins.
8:25 p.m.: Sims hurls an eight-yard pass to wideout Dontae Smith. Smith did his best to get to the line, but falls just short. Fourth and a yard to go.
8:24 p.m.: The Yellow Jackets are starting to move the ball just a tad. After pair of medium-yard gains, Sims sneaks through the tackles for a two-yard gain and a first down.
8:21 p.m.: After a break in the action, the ruling is official: it’s Georgia Tech’s ball. That will only ramp up the pressure on Uiagalelei, who had a less-than-stellar sophomore campaign.
8:18 p.m.: Fumble! The ball is jarred loose as Uiagalelei tries to evade defenders and get to the first down marker. Georgia Tech says they have it! I think they do!
8:17 p.m.: Running back Will Shipley makes a three-yard gain on his second rush of the game. It seems a Georgia Tech defender tugged on his face mask, gifting Clemson an extra 15 yards.
8:16 p.m.: The Tigers have fared better this drive. Uiagalelei finds Beaux Collins, who makes a few Yellow Jackets defenders miss en route to a 22-yard gain.
8:14 p.m.: Sims slings a pass to Nate McCollum on third down. However, he is stopped just short of the first down marker. It will be a punt for the Yellow Jackets.
8:12 p.m.: Bryan Bresee stuffs Dylan McDuffie on his first run attempt of the year. Bresee is one of the country’s top talents and will be hoping for a big time display under the lights.
8:09 p.m.: Clemson is unable to make anything out of Mukuba’s pick. The Tigers proceed to go three-and-out, with DJ Uiagalelei muffing a snap on third down to doom Clemson. Ball is headed back to Georgia Tech.
8:07 p.m.: That vaunted Clemson front seven made its mark on the very first play of the game. KJ Henry hurries into Georgia Tech QB Jeff Sims, who under throws a deep ball as a result. The ball drops right into the hands of Tigers DB Andrew Mukuba. That’s one way to start the season.
8:04 p.m.: The ball is kicked off! Georgia Tech will take the field on offense first.
Monday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN. Dave Pasch will handle the play-by-play action and Dusty Dvoracek will offer analysis from the booth. Tom Luginbill will be the sideline reporter.
Cord-cutters can watch the game on the ESPN App, ESPN+ or fuboTV, which offers a free trial.
Clemson vs. Georgia Tech is slated to kick off at 8 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Clemson is a 24-point favorite in Monday’s game despite having to travel to Atlanta for the “neutral-site” matchup. The over/under stands at 51 points, per Caesars Sportsbook.
* ACC game
* ACC game
It wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty. But by the end of Monday night, Dabo Swinney and No. 4 Clemson could breathe a little easier.