Georgia Tech brought effort and resolve into a game where a slew of unavailable players drastically reduced its chances to win, starting with the absence of running back Jahmyr Gibbs. But, with opportunities to steal out of Raleigh, N.C., with an upset win over N.C. State, the Yellow Jackets fell short.

While outgaining the Wolfpack and controlling play in the second half, Tech took a 23-13 defeat Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.

“Some unforced errors, some things happen outside of our control,” coach Geoff Collins said. “But, proud of the way the guys competed. A bunch of young guys had to step up. Really proud of some of those guys that on short notice had to jump in and contribute, and contribute at a high level.”

ExploreThin defense holds Wolfpack to below average scoring total

With the defense short five key defensive players, Tech came up with a number of impressive stops to stay in the game well into the fourth quarter. However, the Jackets’ inability to score touchdowns in the red zone were costly as Tech (3-6, 3-5 ACC) was unable to follow its win over Duke the previous Saturday. N.C. State (8-3, 7-3) broke Tech’s five-game winning streak in Carter-Finley Stadium.

Tech outgained N.C. State 412-397, including 177-135 in the second half. Running back Jordan Mason, subbing for Gibbs, who was out with a hamstring injury sustained in the win over Duke, ran for 99 yards on 21 carries. Wide receiver Adonicas Sanders had a career day, with seven catches for 105 yards. Linebacker David Curry (12 tackles, two for loss) led a defense that started four freshmen on the line.

For the second week in a row, the Jackets controlled both ground games. They ran for 261 yards, following up its 377-yard effort against Duke and held N.C. State to 88 yards on the ground, well below the Wolfpack’s season average of 133.2 yards per game. That performance followed Duke being limited to 68 rushing yards.

“We got some really good stops,” Collins said. “In the second half, in particular, (we) started getting a bead and what they were trying to do.”

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The costly segment of the game was Tech’s play inside the N.C. State 20-yard line. The Jackets had three consecutive possessions reach that territory – two inside the 10 – in the second, third and fourth quarters and came away with six points. Those three drives were preceded by another in which Tech drove to the N.C. State 34, but were stopped on a fourth-and-2 on a Mason run.

“We’ve got to finish in the red zone,” Collins said. “That was a point of emphasis, and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

The Jackets again created unnecessary obstacles for themselves with 12 penalties for 111 yards. It was their fifth game this season with double-digit penalties. Tech overcame some, but a few were particularly costly. None were more glaring than two false starts, one on right tackle Jordan Williams and the other on tight end Dylan Deveney, on first-and-goal and second-and-goal plays from the Tech 1-yard line on the opening drive of the second half. The Jackets had a chance to cut the lead to 20-14 with a touchdown, but settled for a field goal by Gavin Stewart.

“Those are things that cannot happen when you’re in this kind of game against a really good football team,” Collins said of the two false starts on the 1-yard line.

Gibbs was one of 10 Jackets players who were on the “Above the Line” chart for the game who were announced as unavailable just before kickoff. Among the other nine were five key defensive players – cornerback Tre Swilling, safety Kaleb Oliver and defensive ends Jordan Domineck, Curtis Ryans and Chico Bennett. Collins said that at safety and nickel back, the defense “was hanging on by a thread, depth-wise.”

With defensive end Antonneous Clayton having taken leave of the team this week for mental-health reasons, Tech was without its top four players at that position. Tech looked to a number of freshmen to play meaningful snaps across the defense and had to scramble for solutions. On at least one drive, linebacker Charlie Thomas lined up at rush end.

“It wasn’t even a big deal to the guys,” Collins said of the absences. “We didn’t miss the guys that couldn’t go (Saturday). Some we found out about (Saturday). So those kind of things, the resiliency even before we have to play in the game is just ‘Next man up’ and guys are going to step up.”

Credit: ACC

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With the defense short five key defensive players, Tech took a 23-13 defeat at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

Credit: ACC

For Tech, Saturday was an opportunity to validate its win over Duke. In the 56-33 win, the Jackets scored more points on the Blue Devils than they ever had in the history of the 88-game series, but Duke’s slew of mistakes eased Tech’s path. In the Wolfpack, Tech faced a more heightened challenge, one that plays solid special teams, has done well on third downs on offense and defense and has an improving quarterback in Bailey Hockman, a McEachern High grad.

Indeed, the Wolfpack were much less cooperative, not turning the ball over once (Tech also went turnover-free for only the second time this season) and making the Jackets start all 10 of their possessions behind their 40-yard line, including eight from the 25 or behind it.

Down 20-7 at the half, the Jackets made a run for it in the third quarter. They opened the half with a 22-yard field goal by Gavin Stewart (on the drive short circuited by the two false starts), Tech’s first field goal since the season opener.

N.C. State answered by starting at its 25-yard line and reaching the Tech 10. The Wolfpack converted a second-and-21, a third-and-5 and a third-and-6 (the last on a pass interference call). Inside the red zone with first-and-10 on the 19, the Wolfpack had a chance to go ahead 27-10 and put the Jackets in a deficit that, given their dependence on the run, would have been difficult to overcome.

But, the Jackets stopped the Wolfpack on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 as defensive tackles Djimon Brooks and Ja’Quon Griffin led the way to stop runs up the middle.

ExplorePhotos from the Tech-N.C. State game

Tech then responded with a 16-play, 85-yard drive that Stewart finished with a 22-yard field goal to draw the Jackets to within 20-13 with 11:32 remaining.

The potential for a third comeback this season from a double-digit deficit loomed, following the wins over Florida State and Louisville, and grew greater when Tech forced a stop, keyed by a third-down sack by Curry and defensive end Kyle Kennard (one of the ends pressed into heavy duty) that pushed the Wolfpack out of field-goal range.

But, taking over at their 15 with 8:10 left, the Jackets went three-and-out. N.C. State answered with a field goal to go up 10 points with 3:31 to play, effectively ending the game.

Tech now will prepare for a Thursday night game against Pitt, which is coming off an open date this weekend.

“Put the ball down,” Collins said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”