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Defense and special teams lead Clemson past Georgia Tech

Katie Bradham, Photo Editor

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates on stage after defeating Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

ATLANTA — It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but No. 4 Clemson did enough to defeat Georgia Tech on Monday night, walking away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 41-10 victory.
Like last season, it was Clemson’s defense that dominated on Monday.
Clemson held the Yellow Jackets to 237 total yards and forced them to convert on only two of their 16 third-down attempts.
One of the unit’s more crucial plays came at the 10:59 mark in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers stopped Georgia Tech on fourth down, setting up a 31-yard B.T. Potter field goal after Clemson took over on offense.
Potter’s score gave the Tigers a 17-point lead, and Clemson never looked back from then.
The Tigers’ special teams were just as impactful, though.  
Clemson had two blocked punts on the night, both of which set up touchdowns when the Tigers’ offense took over.
For head coach Dabo Swinney, there were bright spots in all three phases of the game. 
“We played a lot of complimentary football. That’s what you want to see,” Swinney said. “The defense set the tone and kind of carried us for a little bit, and then when the defense got on its heels a little bit, the offense responded and really picked that defense up and put some wind back in their sails.”
Swinney added that Aidan Swanson was a standout for him, as the redshirt junior averaged 44 yards on his six punts. 
Whereas Clemson scored 14 points against the Yellow Jackets last season, the Tigers’ offense was steady throughout this year’s matchup, pouring in 27 points in the second half.
Clemson finished the game with 386 total yards, 210 of which came from junior quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.
Uiagalelei was under the spotlight heading into Monday’s opener. He didn’t have the most impressive box score when it was all said and done, but the junior quarterback delivered when needed.
In the win, Uiagalelei completed 59.4% of his passes for 209 yards and a touchdown. He also added a 9-yard score on the ground when he scampered into the end zone in the third quarter.
After the game, offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter reassured that Uiagalelei remains the starting quarterback over five-star freshman Cade Klubnik. 
“DJ has been an unbelievable leader on this team,” Streeter said. “He’s done a great job of earning the right to be the starter — the way he practices, the way he carries himself, the way he’s got grit and nastiness.” 
There wasn’t a dominant showing from any one offensive player, but multiple other Tigers made their mark on the outcome.
After a scoreless first quarter, Clemson struck first blood when running back Will Shipley scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown at the 9:53 mark in the second quarter.
The score gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead, which was extended to 14 points six minutes later when Uiagalelei threw a 6-yard touchdown to wide receiver Beaux Collins. 
Shipley crossed the goal line twice on Monday and led the Tigers in rushing with 42 on 10 attempts.
Meanwhile, Collins led all Clemson receivers with 54 yards on three receptions. 
Wanting the entire offense to grow from last season, Swinney was pleased from what he saw, but knows there’s still need for improvement. 
“There were a lot of good things,” Swinney said of the offense. “The good news is that there will be a bunch that we have to correct to keep getting better. But it’s a good start that we can build on.” 
Clemson will host Furman in the Tigers’ home opener on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

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