Georgia Tech’s 30-27 victory over Virginia was a nail-biter to the very end, with the Jackets emerging victorious after Virginia’s kicker missed a 35-yard field goal from the right hash that would’ve sent the game to double overtime. The offense wasn’t particularly impressive, compiling just 304 total yards and gaining just 13 first downs in the game (compared to Virginia’s 24). The defense and special teams, however, stepped up huge on consecutive plays in the 1st Quarter, with Brant Mitchell sacking UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins in the endzone for a safety and Juanyeh Thomas returning the ensuing free kick 77 yards for a touchdown. There’s room for improvement on both sides of the ball, but several players stepped up in clutch moments to keep the Jackets in it. Here are some key observations from Georgia Tech’s thrilling 30-27 OT win in their final home game of the season:
Georgia Tech’s defense needs to tighten up.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins had quite a showing, completing 21 of his 26 pass attempts for 217 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Cavaliers’ backup quarterback Brennan Armstrong even threw a 56-yard touchdown on one of his two pass attempts. The Jackets’ defense displayed the same issues we’ve seen all year, playing soft coverage and giving up tons of completions underneath for medium gains. The Virginia offense took full advantage of this, picking up 403 yards of offense and only being forced into 3rd down on nine occasions (compared to 18 for the Jackets). On the positive side, Tech’s defense buckled down at the end of regulation and in overtime, forcing Virginia into two field goal attempts. We’ll need to see more of that “bend-but-don’t-break” defense if the Jackets are going to have any chance of defeating Georgia next week.
Georgia Tech’s passing game took a big step backwards.
Just one week after going 3-of-4 for 73 yards and a touchdown against Miami, TaQuon Marshall turned in a stinker of a performance passing the ball on Saturday, completing just one of his eight pass attempts. While his lone completion was a spectacular 37-yard catch by Brad Stewart late in the 4th Quarter, we can’t overlook the fact that if Marshall hits Stewart in stride he would almost certainly have made it to the endzone for a touchown. Early in the game it seemed Marshall was locking onto certain receivers and trying to force the ball into coverage, which nearly led to interceptions on multiple occasions. In overtime on 3rd & 8 Marshall took far too long locating a wide open Brad Stewart, and by the time Marshall saw him and threw the ball, a defender had already closed in. It’s not clear why Marshall struggled so much with passing on Saturday, but it very nearly cost the Jackets the game.
Wesley Wells has ice in his veins.
Nobody had a bigger day on the Flats than Wesley Wells, the freshman walk-on kicker who connected on field goals of 28, 28, 48, and 40 yards, the final two of which occurred near the end of regulation and in overtime. Given Georgia Tech’s rough experiences with kickers in the post-Butker era, I think I speak for all Georgia Tech fans in stating that I was in utter shock and disbelief when I saw the 48-yard attempt go through the uprights. Wells has firmly cemented himself as Georgia Tech’s kicker moving forward, and may have even earned himself a scholarship with his clutch performance tonight. Prior to this game nobody knew if Wells would come through when the team needed him the most, but when the pressure was on, he delivered.
While it wasn’t always pretty, the Jackets did just enough to outlast the Cavaliers. The win marks Georgia Tech’s sixth victory in the last seven games, bringing their season record to 7-4. I don’t think there’s a Georgia Tech fan out there who expected the team to be here following Tech’s ugly 1-3 start, but Paul Johnson turned has this season around and earned himself job security for at least the next year or two. Next week the Jackets travel to Athens to take on Georgia in the 113th installment Clean Old Fashioned Hate, where Georgia Tech will look to ruin Georgia’s playoff hopes. There are plenty of issues to be addressed this week in practice, but at least for tonight the Jackets can celebrate an exciting, memorable win that was made possible by the magical right foot of their freshman walk-on kicker.