WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Stanford and Florida State ran over Wake Forest as if the Demon Deacons had been banned from the stadium by a temporary restraining order. So it was reasonable to assume Georgia Tech’s offense would perform a similar dissection on a defense ranked 103rd nationally in yards allowed per rush.
Whether hindered by the Demon Deacons’ experience against the look or the Yellow Jackets’ depleted offensive line or inattention to detail, the ground game wasn’t what bailed Tech out in Saturday’s 24-20 comeback victory over the Deacons.
The Jackets were held to 209 yards on the ground and have now been under 250 in consecutive games for the first time since a four-game stretch in the middle of the 2008 season. But at least on this night, it didn’t hurt them. Even when contemplating the phrase “find a way,” coach Paul Johnson probably didn’t count on this: a two-minute drive that would have impressed Joe Montana.
“I’m still flabbergasted,” said Correy Earls, the third-team wide receiver who entered the game with one catch on the season, but claimed the game-winner from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt with 15 seconds to play.
On second thought, Earls recanted his declaration of astonishment.
“I practice with these guys, and I know we can pass the ball,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what plays the coach was going to call, but I have confidence in our quarterback, and we have a great set of receivers.”
Whatever. Earls will be happy to sound confused.
Whenever you think you’ve got this Tech offense figured out -- and Wake had a reason to believe it did -- something new develops to blast your theories out of town. The Deacons had to figure they were in good shape at least for overtime when Jimmy Newman kicked a 26-yard field goal to give his club a 20-17 lead with 2:21 left.
The length of the field with six minutes left? Now that’s what the Jackets love. Give them less than three minutes and an offense that normally requires a dozen plays isn’t necessarily so sure.
Curiously, the best thing that happened to Tech was a dropped pass. If Tyler Melton had caught Joshua Nesbitt’s deep ball on the possession’s first play, the Jackets might have scored too quickly. As things stood, the Jackets needed 12 plays, seven of which were passes.
For whatever reason, they hadn’t done much until Saturday, having gone 15-for-45 through the air before touching down in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad.
The Deacons had seen the triple-option five times in the previous three calendar years, having played Navy in three regular-season games and one bowl to go with last season’s game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. They had the pitch man and were often whacking Nesbitt to the hybrid turf.
“We never got anything going consistently in the running game,” Johnson said. “If we single-blocked the nose tackle, he made every tackle, and if we doubled him, the linebacker made every tackle.”
The wonderful thing about the passing game, of course, is that if it succeeds, tackling isn’t so abrasive to the offense.
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