Georgia Tech took advantage of a stagnant FSU offense last week but had just a bit more trouble containing the up-tempo attack against UCF and talented sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel. The defense also suffered from missing several key players in Clayton, Chimedza (out for season), Ryans, and Swilling. Swilling probably hurt most of all as his ability in coverage could have prevented a few of the deep balls on third downs.
The game wasn’t without some positives from a few individual performers but turnovers and penalties killed momentum throughout the game. Sims didn’t fare as well in the second game of his career either with some overthrown passes and a lost fumble in the red zone.
The opening kickoff gave Tech fans their first look at the freshman running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, who didn’t disappoint with his 75-yard kick return to set up the offense just outside the red zone. Three quick plays later had the Yellow Jackets scoring the first point with Jeff Sims punching it in from the one with a nifty sidestep of a defender. It seemed UCF’s defense was a bit shell shocked off the bat but UCF’s offense looked in good form for their first drive of the year as they quickly responded with an 8-play drive that included a 50-yard pass before Gabriel threw a short TD pass. Tech would have two more impressive drives but the first was undone after Sims was stripped at UCF’s 5-yard line and a missed field goal on the second. Tech also managed to stall a UCF drive with a sack from Charlie Thomas who had two on the night and was one of the bright spots for the defense on the night.
UCF would begin the 2nd quarter by methodically marching down the field with quick intermediate passes that would end in a touchdown and the lead that they never relinquished. Tech’s offense started to stall at this point with a short drive of 4 plays. UCF would use their offensive tempo again to increase the lead to 21-7 on a 90-yard drive. Tech wouldn’t see anymore offensive momentum until the end of the half when Sims would make a nice run and a few quick passes before finding Gibbs over the middle for a TD. A previous UCF touchdown though made it 28-14 going into the half.
A failed onside kick by Tech began the second half but the defense like last week began to hit their stride to start the second half. UCF wouldn’t manage a score in the third quarter but Tech’s offense couldn’t capitalize on the good play by the D close in on the two-touchdown lead. The sloppiness of the third could be summed up in three consecutive plays where Tech stopped UCF on downs but fumbled the exchange on the next play. Charlie Thomas stepped up for Tech again forcing Gabriel into a bad pass that would see Juanyeh Thomas pick it off to give Tech the ball right back.
After an exchange of punts that included a 70-yard bomb from Harvin (9th longest punt in Tech history) to end the third quarter, Tech once again leaned on Gibbs as he took a counter to the right and used his burst of speed to beat UCF’s defenders to the end zone. Tech had fought back to within one possession with plenty of time left at the start of the 4th. Unfortunately, it was the last true positive play for the night for Tech. UCF quickly put the game out of reach with 21 unanswered points that were aided by two more Tech turnovers which totaled six on the night. UCF would win the game 49-21.
The main takeaways of the night are that first Gibbs is the real deal at running back and will be a big threat for Tech even in the passing game this season and in the future. Sims still showed flashes in this game but was flustered more in this game than when facing FSU. It let us know this is still a freshman in his second game but who will improve the more he plays. There never seemed to be a deep threat in the passing game so that might be something the coaching staff tries to work on in ACC competition. The offensive line held fairly well most of the game but did start to give in the end. Kickoffs went well with multiple touchbacks but the lone field goal attempt was once again blocked as the kicking angle was too low. Expect Gavin Stewart, Brad Stewart’s younger brother, to see some chances at kicking in the coming weeks. The defense didn’t seem prepared to handle the up-tempo offense but did manage to produce some pressure as Gabriel was at his lowest under duress. The return of the aforementioned players could be a big boost down the road.
UCF is probably a better team than a good portion of the Coastal teams on Tech’s schedule this year. Syracuse will be a good chance to clean up the mistakes and get back to a winning record before facing off a tough 4-game slate after the bye week.