Before comeback, ESPN gave Tech 2 percent chance of winning

November 26, 2016 Athens - Georgia Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) leaps over for a game winning touchdown in the second half at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, November 26, 2016. Georgia Tech won 28-27 over the Georgia. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

How dire was Georgia Tech’s situation when the Yellow Jackets were behind 27-13 Georgia on Saturday?

How about having its chances of coming back to win estimated at 1 in 50?

ESPN’s in-game win probability calculator assessed Tech’s chances of beating the Bulldogs at 2.09 percent when A-back J.J. Green was tackled for a two-yard loss on the first play of the Jackets’ drive that began at their 4-yard line with 9:51 to play.

The percentage was the 11th lowest this season for a team that ultimately won, according to ESPN. (Thanks for ESPN ACC writer David Hale for helping obtain this information.) The winner, so to speak, was Temple, which beat Central Florida 26-25 on Oct. 15 after having a win probability of .39 percent. (If you’re interested, you can learn more about the game here.)


A compilation of how the probability changed following Green’s lost-yardage play.

After wide receiver Brad Stewart caught a 23-yard pass on the play following Green’s run – 3.9 percent.

After A-back Qua Searcy advanced the ball on the next play to the Georgia 34 with a 39-yard reception – 6.5 percent.

After B-back Dedrick Mills scored on a five-yard touchdown run (and kicker Harrison Butker made the PAT) with 6:28 to play to cut the lead to 27-21 – 17.1 percent.

After cornerback Lance Austin intercepted Georgia quarterback Jacob Easton to give Tech the ball back at the Georgia 46 with 3:39 to play – 27.6 percent.

After B-back Marcus Marshall gained 13 yards for a first down at the Georgia 19 – 38.2 percent.

After Searcy ran a toss play 9 yards on the next play, with about 1:45 remaining, to the Georgia 10 – 65.3 percent. (That may have been the single biggest play of the game, in terms of ESPN’s win probability model, worth 27.1 points. Credit to right guard Will Bryan, right tackle Andrew Marshall and wide receiver Ricky Jeune for clearing room on Searcy’s run.)

Unfortunately, the chart does not seem to include Searcy’s touchdown, or else I am not dexterous enough on my trackpad. But the percentage was 87.3 percent after Eason completed his first pass, for eight yards, on Georgia’s final drive, finally reaching 100 percent when linebacker Brant Mitchell intercepted Eason on the final play of the game.

It was not Tech’s first experience this season with such a reversal. Against Duke, Tech’s win probability was 17 percent after quarterback Justin Thomas was sacked deep on 1st-and-10 in the Jackets’ end trailing 35-31 with a little less than nine minutes to play. On the following play, Thomas scrambled out of the end zone and ran 46 yards to pick up the first down and flip the field. Thomas threw to A-back Clinton Lynch four plays later for a 21-yard touchdown, which improved the Jackets’ win probability to 69.3 percent, a gain of 52.3 points over the course of five plays. (The win-probability chart doesn’t include every play.)

Against Boston College in Dublin, Tech’s probability fell to 42.8 percent when Thomas was sacked for a nine-yard loss on 2nd-and-10 at the Jackets’ 32-yard line with three minutes remaining. After Tech converted the 4th-and-19 two plays later with a 22-yard pass to Searcy, Tech’s chances soared to 71.3 percent, a gain of 28.5 points in two plays (probably more in the one fourth-down play).

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About the Author

Ken Sugiura
Ken Sugiura
Ken Sugiura covers Georgia Tech sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.