Georgia Tech defense asserts itself in victory against Florida State

Quarterback James Blackman of the Florida State Seminoles during the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Character Lines)
Quarterback James Blackman of the Florida State Seminoles during the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2020 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Character Lines)

Credit: Don Juan Moore

Credit: Don Juan Moore

After Florida State’s first two possessions of its 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium, it looked as if it might be a long game for Tech.

The first drive for the visiting Yellow Jackets looked promising until it ended when freshman quarterback Jeff Sims' pass was intercepted by Asante Samuel Jr. Then the Seminoles took advantage of their short field position and scored the game’s first touchdown seven plays later.

ExploreMichael Cunningham: Jeff Sims offer glimpse at what to expect for Tech

On Florida State’s second possession, it was more of the same. Tech gained about 30 yards before stalling and being forced to punt, and then the Seminoles added to their lead with a 37-yard field goal.

But then Tech’s defense started to settle in.

“(Florida State) had a good opening script,” Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “They were fast, they were (playing up-tempo), and it took us a second to get used to it. ... It was the first time that (the Tech defenders) have seen that level of tempo in a live situation.”

Credit: ACC

Key plays from the Yellow Jackets' 16-13 season opening win Sept. 12, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Credit: ACC

After the first quarter, Florida State scored only three more points in the game — a 53-yard field goal late in the third quarter to extend its lead to 13-7. Tech forced three fumbles in the second half, had one interception and locked down the Seminoles all over the field.

Florida State’s last possession of the game is emblematic of Tech’s defensive performance from the second quarter on.

With just under two minutes left and trailing by three points, the Seminoles got the ball on their own 17-yard line. After an 8-yard completion on second down, Tech’s defense needed to get a stop.

ExplorePhotos: Jackets surprise Seminoles in Tallahassee

But after giving up two third-down conversions on three attempts in the first quarter, Tech gave up just four conversions on 13 attempts in the rest of the game, and the third-and-2 opportunity late in the fourth quarter was no different.

Tech’s defense didn’t allow any gain to Florida State, which set up a last-chance attempt on fourth down. Once again, the defense was ready to get the stop and close out the win.

“The last defense that (defensive coordinator) Andrew Thacker called, we have yet to call in a game in two years,” Collins said. “We’ve installed it. We’ve practiced the heck out of it. ... Game on the line, Andrew Thacker is able to call that defense that we have not called in two years and execute it, and we win the game.”