TAMPA, Fla. — Georgia Tech was back in a bowl game after a four-year drought. The Yellow Jackets didn’t look ready for it while quickly falling behind Central Florida on Friday. They desperately needed a jolt and, as he’s done so many times this season, Haynes King provided it.

Tech’s quarterback scored touchdowns running and throwing to bring his team back from a two-touchdown deficit in the first half. King ran for tough yards to set up a another TD that gave the Jackets a two-score lead in the fourth quarter. Tech’s defense finished off the Knights from there for a 30-17 victory in the Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

King led Tech (7-6) to its first bowl victory since 2016 and ended its streak of losing seasons at four. Convincing King to come to Tech might have been the best thing Brent Key did to jump start the program. King couldn’t stick as the starter at Texas A&M. At Tech, he’s elevated the offense with his running ability, toughness and fearlessness.

The Jackets needed all of that from King to beat UCF. They trailed 14-0 after less than nine minutes. King’s 5-yard rushing score and 41-yard touchdown pass on back-to-back possessions forged a 17-17 tie before halftime. The Jackets gained their first lead of the game when Aldan Birr kicked a 29-yard field goal to end the opening possession of the second half.

Tech got the ball back with a fourth-down stop at its 30-yard line. The Jackets gave it back on King’s first big mistake, an interception, but Tech’s defense forced a punt. That’s when King energized Tech with some rugged runs.

The Jackets faced a three-and-out when King took on a defender near the first-down line and spun for extra yards. King converted another third down when he burst through the middle and muscled through an attempted horse-collar tackle. The 17-yard run and 9-yard penalty put Tech at UCF’s 9-yard line. King gained two yards on third-and-3, and Dontae Smith scored on fourth down for a 27-17 lead.

Tech’s defense has struggled all season, but it made the lead hold against UCF. The Knights failed to score on their final six full possessions. The Jackets went out as winners. They are on track to do more winning with King as quarterback again next season.

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