ATLANTA -- Clemson running back Andre Ellington went through a portion of pregame drills Saturday but determined his sprained left ankle was not healed enough to play. The Berkeley High product appeared to be favoring his ankle prior to kickoff and watched the game from the sideline in street clothes.

Clemson missed him.

The biggest concern with Ellington sitting out was not rushing yards, it was ball security and pass protection from freshmen backs D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy.

Howard lost a first-quarter fumble deep in Clemson territory that led to a Georgia Tech touchdown. And Bellamy lost a key fumble early in the third.

It didn't help that Clemson was unable to rush the ball against the ACC's 10th-ranked rush defense, and Clemson did not have a gain of 20 yards or more in the first half.

Watkins hits trifecta

Watkins' 51-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter set three ACC freshman receiving yards. Watkins holds the single- single freshman marks for receiving yards (972), catches (63) and touchdowns (10).

Stat of the night

Clemson entered with eight turnovers in 626 offensive plays. The Tigers turned the ball over four times on Saturday night.

Four corners

Maybe North Carolina coach Everett Withers was onto something last week when he said Clemson's safeties were a liability. Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele used cornerbacks Coty Sensabaugh and Xavier Brewer as his safeties at times Saturday. Rashard Hall, who has been playing through a knee injury, had his snaps reduced though Hall did have a fourth-quarter interception.

Heisman ties

College football legend John Heisman coached at both Clemson and Georgia Tech.

Heisman coached at Clemson from 1900-03, leading the Tigers to a 19-3-2 record. Heisman left after the 1903 season to become Georgia Tech's first full-time football coach, paid $2,250 per season and 30 percent of net receipts at Georgia Tech.

Sports Illustrated notes in a feature this week that Heisman's personal Bible is stored in the Clemson library. Written in the Bible are Heisman's 14 football do's and dont's. One do: Win. One don't: Lose.

Third-and-loud

Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen said Bobby Dodd Stadium was the second-loudest venue he has played in after Lane Stadium, and Allen's assessment was accurate Saturday night. The Bobby Dodd crowd, which contained some 15,000 Clemson fans, was especially loud on third down when Clemson appeared to struggle with on-field communication.

Air out of the ball

Georgia Tech's run-first offense slowed down the Clemson tempo on Saturday. Clemson ran just 33 first-half plays, far below its season average entering the game of 78.25 plays per game.