8:00 PM ET, December 5, 2009
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
TAMPA, Fla. -- Two years into his rebuilding job at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson has the Yellow Jackets exactly where he had hoped.
Atlantic Coast Conference champions and headed to a BCS bowl for the first time.
C.J.'s Big Day
With four touchdowns against Georgia Tech, running back C.J Spiller set the Clemson record for touchdowns in a single season. Here's a look at the list:
Jonathan Dwyer's 15-yard touchdown run with 1:20 remaining capped a long winning drive and gave the Yellow Jackets (No. 10 BCS, No. 12 AP) a 39-34 victory over Clemson (No. 25 AP) in Saturday night's ACC championship game.
Josh Nesbitt threw a 70-yard TD pass to DeMaryius Thomas and Scott Blair kicked a title game-record four field goals to help the Yellow Jackets (11-2) win the crown -- Tech's first since sharing it with Florida State in 1998 -- in their second season under Johnson.
Next up is a trip to the Orange Bowl for the Yellow Jackets' first major postseason appearance since the 1966 season, when they also made the trek to Miami.
"When we took the job, this is the reason we took it -- to have a chance to compete and go to BCS bowl games," said Johnson, who won two Division I-AA national titles at Georgia Southern and also had a successful stint at Navy before taking over at Tech.
ACC player of the year C.J. Spiller rushed for 233 yards and four touchdowns for Clemson (8-5), which has lost two straight following a six-game winning streak that revived its season after a slow start.
"A lot of people had us written off, but we stayed together," Spiller said. "You never want to come up short, but those guys just made the extra play to win."
The Tigers are eager to learn where their first full season under coach Dabo Swinney will end.
"We had the second-best record in the league. There is a [bowl] pecking order and I would hope we will be where we'll supposed to be," Swinney said.
Baker, the star of Georgia Tech's three-point victory over Clemson during the regular season, kicked field goals of 48, 49, 28 and 40 yards. Dwyer ran for two TDs and Nesbitt ran for one for the Yellow Jackets, who rushed for 333 yards.
• Georgia Tech claimed its first outright ACC championship since 1990, which is also the last year it won 11 games in a season.
• Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt both rushed for over 100 yards for the Yellow Jackets.
• C.J. Spiller ran for 233 yards and four touchdowns for Clemson, which totaled 323 yards on the ground.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Spiller's scoring plays covered 3, 41, 36 and 9 yards, the latter trimming a 13-point deficit to 33-27 with 12 minutes remaining. His longest run of the night, a 54-yarder to the Georgia Tech 9, put him over 200 yards and set up Andre Ellington's 1-yard run that put the Tigers ahead 34-33 with 6:11 left.
Georgia Tech marched 86 yards in 13 plays to regain the lead. Dwyer finished with 110 yards on 24 carries. Nesbitt, a distant second to Spiller for conference player of the year, rushed for 103 yards on 22 attempts.
"There's no way that we're going to lay down and give up," Dwyer said. "Everybody was boosting everybody up, telling each other we're going to score."
The teams combined for 883 yards of total offense, including 656 on the ground. Neither team punted.
"It was a shootout, but unfortunately we just couldn't get the ball enough," Swinney said.
"It's a painful experience and I hope we'll grow and learn from this. We've got a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen on this team and hopefully they will understand what it's all about."
Spiller, an all-purpose threat from Lake Butler, Fla., hiked his season rushing total to 1,145 yards. He's scored a Clemson single-season record 20 touchdowns -- 11 rushing, four receiving and five on kick returns.
The Yellow Jackets and Tigers were among the hottest teams in the country before stumbling against instate rivals Georgia and South Carolina to close the regular season.
Johnson and Swinney, however, scoffed at the notion that the losses to a couple of middle of the pack SEC teams took some of the luster off a matchup between the ACC's highest scoring teams.
The title game appearance was the second for Georgia Tech, which failed to score a touchdown in a 9-6 loss to Wake Forest in 2006, and now has its first outright ACC championship since 1990 -- the year before Clemson won the most recent of its league-record 13 crowns.
"We've come a long way in one year," said Swinney, who replaced Tommy Bowden on Oct. 13, 2008 and guided the Tigers in the final seven games of last season.
"This is where Clemson is supposed to be. This is our standard. This is our expectation," Swinney added. "So, hopefully we can grow from this."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Jonathan Dwyer's 15-yard score gave the Yellow Jackets a lead with 1:20 remaining.
Gameball goes to... Josh Nesbitt, who finished with 239 total yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 37:17. Despite the close game, Tech dominated time of possession.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||11-18||5-9|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||1-2|
|TD||11:24||C.J. Spiller 3 Yd Run (Richard Jackson Kick)||0||7|
|FG||07:30||Scott Blair 48 Yd||3||7|
|TD||13:30||Jonathan Dwyer 4 Yd Run (Scott Blair Kick)||10||7|
|FG||05:35||Scott Blair 49 Yd||13||7|
|TD||02:55||C.J. Spiller 41 Yd Run (Two-Point Run Conversion Failed)||13||13|
|FG||00:06||Scott Blair 28 Yd||16||13|
|TD||09:12||Josh Nesbitt 13 Yd Run (Scott Blair Kick)||23||13|
|TD||06:39||C.J. Spiller 36 Yd Run (Richard Jackson Kick)||23||20|
|TD||05:10||Demaryius Thomas 70 Yd Pass From Josh Nesbitt (Scott Blair Kick)||30||20|
|FG||01:11||Scott Blair 40 Yd||33||20|
|TD||12:00||C.J. Spiller 9 Yd Run (Richard Jackson Kick)||33||27|
|TD||06:11||Andre Ellington 1 Yd Run (Richard Jackson Kick)||33||34|
|TD||01:20||Jonathan Dwyer 15 Yd Run (Two-Point Run Conversion Failed)||39||34|