Georgia Tech opened coach Geoff Collins’ fourth season with a mistake-filled 41-10 loss to No. 4 Clemson on Monday night in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tigers won their eighth consecutive game against the Yellow Jackets before a crowd of 47,712.

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Key play

Early in the second quarter, Tech lined up to punt from its 31-yard line with the score tied at 0-0. Clemson’s Carson Donnelly came up the middle to block David Shanahan’s punt, which was then returned by Brannon Spector to the Tech 5-yard line. The botched protection gave the Tigers advantageous field position to set up a touchdown for a 7-0 lead that they never relinquished. It was the first of two blocked punts for Clemson, the other of which also was deep inside Tech’s territory and led to a touchdown.

Key stat

Tech was 2-for-16 on third downs, while Clemson was 7-for-15. The Jackets were compromised by drops by Tech targets on throws by quarterback Jeff Sims and penalties that put the offense in third-and-long situations. Tech demonstrated itself capable of moving the ball against the Tigers – there were four drives of at least nine plays – but the inability to convert on third downs shrank its opportunities to stay in the game and pressure the Tigers.

Game ball

Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry was credited with six tackles, including 2.5 for loss and one sack, as well as a forced fumble. He also got a hit on Sims on Tech’s first play from scrimmage, leading to a Clemson interception. The Tigers’ pressure on Sims and their control of the line of scrimmage factored heavily in Tech having to throttle back its game plan. The Jackets finished with 75 rushing yards, their third-lowest total in Collins’ tenure.

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What we learned

Tech continues to be susceptible to the types of mistakes that have been damaging to its chances through Collins’ first three seasons – on this night 10 penalties, two blocked punts and dropped passes. They could be attributed to first-game jitters, especially on the part of offensive linemen who were understandably jumpy against Clemson’s vaunted defensive front. If Collins can get those errors corrected for the remaining 11 games, it won’t be a problem. But if it’s merely a precursor and also a continuation of the first three seasons, then that is a problem.

They said it

“It’s very frustrating, very disappointing. It has been addressed, will continue to be addressed. The guys in there are committed to doing that. But it falls on me, and I will work relentlessly to get that cleaned up.” – Collins on the mistakes

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What’s next

Georgia Tech plays FCS Western Carolina on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Catamounts defeated Charleston Southern 52-38 on Saturday.

Clemson will play its home opener Saturday against Furman.