TAMPA, Fla. -There is good reason to understand why some may have questioned Scott Blair's identity Saturday.
The Georgia Tech place kicker, who entered the ACC championship as one of the more embattled players on the Yellow Jackets' roster, finally came alive.
After struggling on kickoffs, and missing on four kicks from inside 40 yards this year, most Georgia Tech fans had long written the junior off.
But in the first half alone Saturday, he cleared three consecutive field goals. Blair's three field goals after two quarters made him the first player in ACC championship game history to accomplish the feat. He also tied Wake Forest's Sam Swank for the record of made field goals.
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Swank made three against the Yellow Jackets in Wake Forest's 9-6 win in 2006.
Blair's 49-yard field goal in the second quarter became his career long, and gave Georgia Tech a 13-7 lead. His previous kick had also set a career-high as he drilled home a 48-yarder for the Yellow Jackets' first points in the first quarter.
In the teams' first meeting on Sept. 10, he knocked in the game-winning field goal, and passed for a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas off a fake field goal.
The effort, which led to a 30-27 Georgia Tech win, led Georgia Tech's sports information department to place a note in its weekly guide with the title "Scott Blair Should Retire Now."
Barnes, Walls start. Backup defensive tackles T.J. Barnes and Logan Walls received starts Saturday for a pair of injured teammates.
Playing in place of juniors Jason Peters and Ben Anderson - who were both banged up in Georgia Tech's season-finale against rival Georgia - Barnes and Walls were key components early, clogging the Tigers' run lanes.
Clemson would, however, respond by mostly running outside. On one second-half third-down, Tigers running back C.J. Spiller took a pitch along the sideline to his left to run 41 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
It was the first career start for Barnes, a redshirt freshman.
Reid gets start, too. Just before the game, it was announced that sophomore cornerback Jerrard Tarrant would not start.
Inserted in his place was fellow sophomore Rashaad Reid. Tampa native Michael Peterson also saw action in the first half, alternating time on the opening drive with Reid.
On Clemson's second offensive series, however, Tarrant took the field for the first time. During one third down on that drive, Tarrant broke up a Kyle Parker pass attempt when he stretched out and tipped the ball with his left arm while diving. On the following play, Tigers place kicker Richard Jackson missed a 52-yard field goal when he slipped on the turf as he attempted the kick.
Key injury. Early in the first quarter, Yellow Jackets offensive tackle Phil Smith exited the game with what appeared to be a left knee injury.
On the same down that quarterback Josh Nesbitt converted a first-down, Smith remained on the ground for a couple minutes before being helped off by training staff. He was favoring his left knee as he hobbled toward the sideline.
Remaining out of the game during the rest of the first half, his status was not immediately known.
His backup, Nick Claytor, helped the Yellow Jackets offense run efficiently. During Claytor's first full series, Georgia Tech marched down the field to score on a 4-yard run by B-back Jonathan Dwyer. The Yellow Jackets followed that touchdown with Blair's second field goal.
Quick Hits. The Yellow Jackets brought a three-game series winning streak into the game, and had won five of the previous six meetings. ... The Yellow Jackets last won the ACC outright in 1990, the year they were also named co-national champions.