Instant replay: Georgia Tech 30, Clemson 27

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney admitted it -- “I got my butt outcoached in the first half,” he told reporters after the Tigers’ 30-27 loss to Georgia Tech on Thursday night.

He did, but Swinney and his entire team redeemed themselves in the second half, and should be lauded for their effort.

It’s too early to determine Clemson’s path for this season, but the Tigers showed something they didn’t last season under former coach Tommy Bowden -- toughness and resiliency. Instead of folding after falling deep into a 24-0 hole, the Tigers rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter. It seemed like they were on the verge of making an improbable comeback, and for the second time in a week the ACC delivered another nationally televised page-turner.

A few quick observations:

  • If Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan continues to play like that, it would be hard to imagine him sticking around instead of bolting for the NFL. He finished with 10 tackles (7 solo), three sacks for a loss of nine yards, and four tackles for a loss of 13 yards. It was baffling that the Clemson coaching staff didn’t try to double team him earlier, as Morgan single-handedly disrupted the Tigers’ backfield and rattled Kyle Parker.

  • As expected, Morgan is the strength of that line, and in its first real test, the Jackets’ interior guys struggled. Still, it also exposed weaknesses that linger on Clemson’s offensive line. Both teams looked at times like they needed some help up front.

  • Kyle Parker is going to be an excellent quarterback – as long as he gets the protection he needs. Parker completed 15 of 31 passes for 261 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He led the Tigers on four second-half scoring drives and made it a game again.

  • Clemson did a much better job of getting the ball to its top playmakers. C.J. Spiller might have been the most underutilized player in the country last year, but against Georgia Tech, he lined up all over the field and Jacoby Ford had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. The speed on the field was exciting.

  • The rest of the ACC better look out for Anthony Allen. Five carries for 127 yards and a touchdown – an 82-yard run on a pitch from Josh Nesbitt. Thanks to a missed assignment by a Clemson defender, Allen was freed. Still, Georgia Tech's offense left much to be desired. The Jackets were 3-of-14 on third-down conversions and kicker Scott Blair accounted for the bulk of their points.

  • Georgia Tech has to play more than one quarter. For the second straight game, the Jackets let off too easily. This is a team that needs to learn to play with a lead, extend it, and never be satisfied until the clock runs out.

If Miami was watching -- and it would be hard to believe it wasn’t -- first-year defensive coordinator John Lovett might have learned something from Kevin Steele in the second half. Clemson did a much better job of stifling that option offense and forcing the Jackets into uncomfortable throwing situations.

The lesson learned from this game is that both teams still have room to grow but are capable of leading their respective divisions. It’s not even mid-September yet, and both Clemson and Georgia Tech will improve as the season unfolds. For now, it's Miami and Georgia Tech at the top of the heap, which makes for an exciting game next Thursday.