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September 29, 2007
ATLANTA — Thunder and Lightning were nothing special, and Clemson's special teams were downright horrible.
Georgia Tech stifled the dynamic running duo of James "Thunder" Davis and C.J. "Lightning" Spiller and took advantage of a stunningly poor performance by Dean Buchholz and the rest of Clemson's kicking game, upsetting the 13th-ranked Tigers 13-3 Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a two-game losing streak and avoided their first 0-3 start in league play since 1994. It wouldn't have been possible if not for Clemson's woes in a phase of the game that often gets overlooked.
The Tigers (4-1, 2-1) missed four field goals, had a punt blocked to set up the only touchdown and fumbled on a kickoff return, setting up a field goal that gave Georgia Tech a 10-point lead with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.
For good measure, Clemson had a touchdown called back because of a silly personal foul penalty, and gave Georgia Tech a do-over at the end zone with a pass interference penalty.
Buchholz, who had made 6-of-8 field goals in Clemson's first four games, booted a season-long 48 yarder just over a minute into the game. But it turned out to be a terrible homecoming for the junior from suburban Atlanta.
He was wide right from 30 and 48 yards, and wide left from 47 and 50. Maybe Buchholz was still tired from a soccer game the previous night, having assisted on both Clemson goals in a 4-2 loss to Duke before making the 2-hour drive to Atlanta.
Tashard Choice, who had been bothered by a sore hamstring in both Georgia Tech losses, got back on track with 145 yards rushing. He scored from the 2 in the first quarter, which turned out to be all the points the Yellow Jackets would need.
It was a stunning turnaround from last year's game between the I-85 rivals, won by Clemson in a 31-7 rout. Davis rushed a career-best 216 yards and scored two touchdowns. Spiller ran for 116 yards, including a 50-yard TD, and also caught a 50-yard scoring pass.
This time, Davis managed 60 yards on 12 carries. Spiller was even worse, carrying nine times for only 2 yards. The Tigers showed little inclination to run between the tackles and couldn't hold off Georgia Tech's blitzing defense.
Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, also from suburban Atlanta, was sacked six times and went 17-for-39, including his first interception of the season.