5 things learned from Georgia Tech’s win at Wake Forest

Georgia Tech wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. (13) reaches in vain for a pass as Wake Forest defensive back Nick Andersen (45) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. (13) reaches in vain for a pass as Wake Forest defensive back Nick Andersen (45) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Georgia Tech earned a hard-fought victory Saturday, beating Wake Forest 30-16 at Allegacy Stadium on a cool and rainy night.

The Yellow Jackets trailed 3-0 before scoring 20 points in a row. They never relinquished that lead thanks to their best defensive performance of the young season which produced five takeaways and eight sacks.

Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC) ends the month of the season at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network) when Bowling Green (1-3) comes to Bobby Dodd Stadium. Before then, here are five things we learned during the Jackets’ triumph over the Demon Deacons.

So many sacks!

Tech came into Saturday with one measly sack, registered by defensive lineman Eddie Kelly during a Week 3 loss at Ole Miss. Sixty minutes later at Allegacy Stadium and the Jackets looked up to see eight sacks on the stat sheet.

“Honestly, we just needed to, I feel like, as a D-line, step up, make more plays, negative plays,” Tech defensive lineman Zeek Bigger said. “I feel like this week we did that. We practiced hard and made sure we finished every play, every drive. We did a lot better and we’re gonna keep doing that, keep doing what we’re doing.”

The Jackets hadn’t recorded that many sacks in a single game since recording eight in a win over North Carolina on Sept. 25, 2021. Biggers and Andre White combined for one of the eight, White had a solo sack of his own, Kyle Kennard came up with four and K.J. Wallace and Paul Moala also got in on the fun with one each.

Kennard’s four sacks were one shy of the single-game program record of five.

“It just felt like it was time,” Bigger said. “I’m excited that (Kennard) got four sacks. Excited for them guys. We work as a collective group to rush the passer. Seeing them guys have success is very exciting.

“Honestly, I just feel like we go back to work and keep trying to do this every week. I feel like this is not really a milestone, we want to get more than that. I feel like we can do that as a D-line. Really just keep building off of that, keep practicing how we’re practicing, coming out fast, just working as a unit and getting to the QB.”

No sacks!

Wake entered Saturday’s matchup leading the nation in sacks thanks, mostly, to recording 10 the week prior at Old Dominion. Tech’s offensive line completely shut down Wake’s pass rush.

Quarterback Haynes King wasn’t sacked once by the Demon Deacons. His front five of Ethan Mackenny, Joe Fusile, Weston Franklin, Connor Scaglione and Jakiah Leftwich, the latter coming in for Jordan Williams who was injured early in Saturday’s win, kept King’s jersey clean and white all night.

“Oh it’s wonderful. Shout out to them,” King said with a smile. “Defensively we knew they were gonna be real active up front. Really active. That was the main focus this week. They grinded it out.

“We don’t have no quit up front. That’s what you love to see. Love to see those guys play, how tough they are, how strong they are and how much they just grind. There’s no quit in ‘em. It means a lot to ‘em and those are the guys you wanna play with.”

Tech has only allowed three sacks in four games this season.

Singleton continues to shine

An unlikely go-to receiver continues to emerge for Tech in freshman Eric Singleton. The Alexander High graduate caught four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown Saturday, his fourth straight game with a TD catch.

Singleton is the first Tech receiver with a touchdown reception in four straight games since Kelly Campbell caught one in six straight during the 2000 season. He has 14 catches for 250 yards and four scores this season.

Birr’s boot

Tech appears to have found a reliable kicker in freshman Aidan Birr.

A Kennedale, Texas, native, Birr went 3-for-3 on field goals in Saturday’s win and is now 7 of 8 for the season after taking over placekicking duties during the South Carolina State win Sept. 16. Birr is also 7 of 7 on extra points.

Staying multi-dimensional

Tech had its poorest rushing game of the season statistically. The Jackets finished with 158 yards on 32 carries, their least in four games, for an average of 4.9 yards per run. Jamal Haynes led the way with 95 yards and a TD on the ground.

Trey Cooley was held to 12 yards on seven runs.

“We’ve got to do a better job of consistently being able to run the football. We can’t sit back there and have to throw it every time versus a defense – and (Wake Forest is) a good defense,” Tech coach Brent Key said. “We’ve got to get consistency in the running game so we’re not becoming one-dimensional and we can put games to bed when we need to put them to bed.”

Tech also ran just 59 offensive plays, its fewest since 51 offensive snaps in a win over Western Carolina on Sept. 10, 2022.