ATLANTA, GA – There are few better venues for a game than under the lights at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In a long overdue rarity, the television network gods granted a 7:30pm kick to Georgia Tech for their ACC Atlantic Division crossover game versus the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Unfortunately Tech paired the late start to Homecoming with a slow start on the field, stymied for a half by the Deacons (4-3, 1-3). The Jackets (4-2, 3-1) slow danced on the field for the first half on both sides of the ball, with the Deacons taking the lead role on both offense and defense.
Tech mustered just one touchdown and 199 yards of offense on 43 plays (4.6 yards/play) in five first half drives. The Demon Deacons defense, one of the best in the nation at creating negative plays, created six tackles for a loss. Defensively the Jackets defense allowed a generally underwhelming Wake Forest offense to score touchdowns on three of its four first half series.
Mixed altogether, the result was a 21-13 deficit at the half for the home team.
“[Wake] was probably the fastest up-tempo offense that we faced all year,” said senior safety Corey Griffin. “Looking to the sideline, looking at formation and trying to get the right check, there’s a lot to it… It’s definitely something we have to work on.”
Fortunately the sleepy Yellow Jackets woke up in the second half on the Grant Field dance floor. The Jackets’ defense bowed up for their first of two consecutive three and outs to start the half. The offense followed suit, with junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall taking his first snap and turning the corner en route to a 49 yard touchdown run.
Tech did not relent the rest of the way. Offensively Jackets piled up 296 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the second half, while the defense became frugal and allowed just three more points.
“I think we kind of slept walked through the first half, honestly,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “I think we had way more energy in the second half than we did the first half. There was a little more urgency.”
Big plays were key on offense as Tech scored on jaunts of 49 yards (Marshall), 42 yards (Searcy) and 70 yards (Marshall, again).
The key to those plays? “Great blocking up front,” said Marshall. “The guys opened up some holes for me. Ricky made a great block on the perimeter. I just tried to make a play and move the game in our favor.”
Defensively, the defense made big plays of their own. While the Deacons offense moved the ball sporadically in the second half, the Jackets’ defense stuffed three drives via fourth down conversion stops. Of the three, perhaps the loudest roar from the home crowd came following junior linebacker Victor Alexander’s sack with 2:47 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Once Tech grabbed a 25-24 lead via Searcy’s touchdown run, quarterback John Wolford led Wake’s next drive to the Tech 34 yard line. Lined up for a critical 4th and 4, the Deacons went backwards for a 9 yard loss, thanks to a sack from Alexander.
“Coach Roof called the right blitz at the right time,” said Alexander. “I knew I had to execute. It was 4th down and I was just thinking about my teammates… we had to make a big play and it was my time to shine.”
The momentum stayed with the Jackets the rest of the way. What was once anyone’s ballgame became one where there was no doubt. The Yellow Jackets were the kings of Homecoming with a decisive 38-24 victory.
Other news and notes:
- With the win Georgia Tech moved to 3-1 in the ACC and second place in the Coastal division standings. The stiffest test to-date comes next Saturday at Clemson, the defending national champions.
- The eight-point halftime deficit was the largest that Georgia Tech has overcome in a win since it came back from a 28-12 halftime deficit in a 45-42 win at Georgia on Nov. 29, 2008.
- Marshall and running back KirVonte Benson broke 100 yards rushing each for the fourth time in six games this season.
- After turning over the ball 2+ times in each of their first three FBS games, the Yellow Jackets offense has not turned it over once in its last two (at Miami, vs. Wake Forest).