CLEMSON, S.C. -- Josh Nesbitt threw for one touchdown and rushed for another to lead Georgia Tech to a 21-17 victory over Clemson and new coach Dabo Swinney on Saturday.
It was an emotional day for the Tigers in their first game since Tiger coach Tommy Bowden stepped down Monday. Clemson and oft-criticized quarterback Cullen Harper rallied in the second half with two TD passes to Aaron Kelly to wipe out an 11-point deficit and lead 17-14.
But Nesbitt and the Yellow Jackets answered back. Nesbitt got Tiger cornerback Chris Chancellor to bite on a pump fake, leaving Demaryius Thomas alone for a 24-yard touchdown catch with 5:22 left to retake the lead.
Clemson drove to midfield on its next possession, but a try at a hook-and-ladder play on fourth down was well short. The Tigers got the ball back on their own 18 with 3 seconds to go. Harper's desperation pass was intercepted.
Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its fourth straight while Clemson (3-4, 1-3), the former ACC favorites, dropped its third in a row -- its longest losing streak since 2005.
Jonathan Dwyer ran for 109 yards, his fifth game over the century mark this season.
Nesbitt also ran for a 5-yard score just before halftime. He had 77 yards rushing.
Despite the week's tumult, Clemson, Swinney and its fans entered this one with plenty of fire.
Swinney instituted a "Tiger Walk" about two hours before kickoff as orange-clad fans showered the coaches and players with cheers and adulation.
Swinney was the first one to Howard's Rock, embracing the Tigers' inspirational monument with both hands and kissing it. He led the way into Death Valley, pumping his fist to the screaming crowd, then urging his players down the hill.
Once the game began, though, Georgia Tech's defense smothered Clemson's attack and most of the good vibes.
Led by first-time starter in freshman Willy Korn, the Tigers didn't get a first down until their third series.
On the next play, a flea flicker pass by wide out Tyler Grisham was picked off by Dominique Reese and returned 34 yards for a touchdown -- the Yellow Jackets first such score in two years.
Georgia Tech kept the pressure on a series later, Rashaad Reid intercepting Korn as he got hit by lineman Derrick Morgan.
Georgia Tech held Clemson and its once vaunted run game to 18 yards in the first 30 minutes.
The Yellow Jackets option game finally got going late in the half. Jonathan Dwyer, the league's top rusher, broke free for a 31-yard gain on third-and-16 on Georgia Tech's 14. Josh Nesbitt hit Roddy Jones with a 35-yard pass a play later. Nesbitt capped the drive with a 5-yard scoring run for a 14-3 lead.
Korn, Clemson's heralded quarterback recruit, was knocked from the game with a shoulder injury. His replacement was Harper, the preseason favorite for ACC player of the year benched by Bowden last week.
Kelly had TD catches of 32 and 31 yards, tying the school's career mark of 18 established by tight end Glenn Smith from 1948-51. Kelly finished with 7 catches for 122 yards.
Harper completed 15 of 25 passes for 170 yards and two interceptions to go with his pair of TD throws.
The Tigers played without star runner C.J. Spiller, who injured his hamstring against Wake Forest earlier this month.
Nike Men's Clemson Tigers Orange/Regalia Team Issue Performance PoloShop
South Carolina AD Ray Tanner is not "100 percent sure" Saturday's game vs. No. 7 LSU will be played at Williams-Brice Stadium because of devastating floods that hit the state.
UCLA junior linebacker Myles Jack has withdrawn from school and will enter the NFL draft, making the decision just weeks after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys' defense has lost senior middle linebacker Ryan Simmons for the season because of a knee injury.
A judge has dismissed simple assault charges against Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo after the woman he allegedly attacked after a football game said she didn't want to testify.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said he was sorry for getting into a sideline altercation with an assistant coach during a 41-24 loss to Oregon over the weekend.
The Fresno County District Attorney's office has filed charges against Fresno State QB Zack Greenlee and a teammate after both were arrested last month during a house party near the campus.