Georgia Tech defensive back Kenan Johnson runs after intercepting a Wake Forest pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. The Jackets won 30-16. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Georgia Tech scored 20 consecutive points in the first half, then hung on dearly for a 30-16 win at Wake Forest on Saturday night at Allegacy Stadium.
Tech forced five turnovers, none bigger than a Kenan Johnson interception with 2:18 remaining in regulation to halt a potential game-tying drive from Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1 ACC).
Quarterback Haynes King threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and overcome an early interception. Tech’s defense recorded eight sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.
“We knew it was going to be a grind. They were gonna be a well-coached football team, and we weren’t gonna just get stuff easy,” King said. “So we came in with that mentality and we grinded it out and came out with a win.”
The Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-1) return home to host Bowling Green (1-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network).
On this Saturday, Tech opened the fourth quarter by turning the ball over on downs at the Wake Forest 35. But on the next play, linebacker Andre White got to Wake Forest quarterback Mitch Griffis and jarred the ball loose. Zeek Biggers came up with it on the Demon Deacons’ 26.
Aidan Birr kicked a 27-yard field goal shortly after that to make the score 23-9.
Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1 ACC) refused to go quietly into the night and got within 23-16 with 5:26 to go. Griffis’ 16-yard jump ball to Wesley Grimes capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
The Deacons got the ball back with 4:01 left and quickly moved to the Tech 21. But on a first-down play, Griffis scrambled right and threw off-balance down the right side of the field. Johnson was there waiting.
The junior made the game-sealing pick, then the Jackets put the game on ice with a 26-yard touchdown run from Jamal Haynes that provided the final margin. Haynes finished with 95 yards rushing on 18 carries.
“There were some calls that didn’t go our way. One thing that my older brother always preached to me is just don’t let your highs get too high, don’t let your lows get to low,” Johnson said. “I serve a higher power, and I just asked God to help guide me through the moment and allow me to continue to play and finish. That’s what happened.”
Credit: Chad Bishop
Wake Forest dented the scoreboard first thanks a 25-yard field goal off the right foot of the Matthew Dennis with 7:24 left on the first quarter clock.
Tech roared right back with a lightning-quick, 75-yard drive that ended on King’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Eric Singleton into the left corner of the end zone. A 38-yard pass from King to tight end Luke Benson down the right seam helped set up the score.
The Jackets upped their lead to 14-3 midway through the second quarter when King found Abdul Janneh for a 33-yard touchdown strike. Janneh, a Duquesne transfer who had caught a 14-yard pass earlier in the drive, broke free down the right side on a third-down play and easily hauled in his first career TD as a Jacket.
Tech caught a break late in the period when Taylor Morin muffed a punt inside his own 15. Freshman Chad Alexander was on the scene to recover the ball putting the Jackets in scoring position at the 11. Aidan Birr kicked a 25-yard field goal less than a minute later, making the score 17-3.
Birr added a 48-yarder just before the half giving Tech a 20-3 advantage after two quarters.
The Jackets held the Deacons to 70 pass yards in the first half, made five stops on third down and forced two turnovers.
Wake Forest put together an impressive drive to start the second half going 12 plays in 4-1/2 minutes over 75 yards. Demond Claiborne scored on a 8-yard run, taking a handoff and sprinting around right end into the corner of the end zone.
A missed extra point made the score 20-9 with 10:26 left in the period and Tech would take that lead into the final 15 minutes.
“Excited for the team to be able to build on the good things and have a win,” Tech coach Brent Key said. “Whether you win a game or you lose a game, you got to address things that are wrong, address things that you have to fix. But it’s a heckuva a lot better to do it after a win, I’ll tell you that.”