October 21, 2017 Atlanta - Wake Forest running back Cade Carney (36) is stopped by Georgia Tech defense in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Hyosub Shin/AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Hyosub Shin/AJC

What happened on Georgia Tech’s three key fourth-down stops

A week after a stunning fourth-down conversion by Miami sent Georgia Tech to defeat, the Yellow Jackets handled business against Wake Forest on three fourth-down plays Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

In the second half, Tech stopped the Demon Deacons on fourth downs with four, three and one yard to go on consecutive series, helping tie down the 38-24 victory for the Jackets.

Tech opponents had come into the game 6-for-8 on fourth down, including the fourth-and-10 conversion by Miami in the final minute of the game, setting up the Hurricanes’ game-winning field goal. The 75 percent rate was tied for 117th nationally. It was a different story Saturday night.

Fourth down No.1: Wake Forest was down 25-24 with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. The Demon Deacons had a fourth-and-4 at the Tech 34-yard line, with a 51-yard field goal evidently longer than Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson felt comfortable attempting. (The longest of kicker Mike Weaver’s 10 makes this season is 39 yards.)

On a blitz, linebacker Victor Alexander beat running back Arkeem Byrd’s block and sacked quarterback John Wolford for a nine-yard loss, the junior’s first career sack. The pass coverage likely gets an assist, as Wolford held the ball likely longer than he would have liked.

“(Defensive coordinator Ted Roof) called the right blitz at the right time,” Alexander said. “I just knew I had to execute. It was fourth down, I was just thinking of my teammates. I knew we’d been going for a good little drive at that point and we had to make a big play and it was my time to shine. So I just took advantage of it.”

Fourth down No. 2: Tech was now up 31-24 in the fourth quarter with about nine minutes to play. Wake Forest had reached the Tech 40, where it faced a fourth-and-3. Wolford rolled to his right, where pressure from defensive tackle Brandon Adams and defensive end KeShun Freeman forced him to retreat and into a difficult throw. Wolford threw downfield for wide receiver Chuck Wade, but safety A.J. Gray was there to break it up.

Fourth down No. 3: After Tech had itself been stopped on fourth down, Wake Forest appeared that it might be down to its last chance, with a fourth-and-1 on the Tech 24 with just under four minutes to play. Wake Forest called timeout to mull it over.

Coach Dave Clawson went with a run up the middle by running back Cade Carney, but a strong surge up the middle by defensive linemen Brentavious Glanton, Desmond Branch and Freeman kept linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling free to stop Carney head on.

Safety Corey Griffin: “We had the right play call, and it was really the will to win at that time.”

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