By Don Stone, GeorgiaTechExpress.com
Both teams came into this game with a lot on the line. For Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3 ACC), they could clinch a bowl berth with the required six wins along with a winning conference record for the first time in five years.
Syracuse (5-5, 1-5 ACC) tried to become bowl eligible for the second staight year…the first time they would have accomplished back to back bowls since 2012 and 2013.
For the Yellow Jackets, the task would be a bit more difficult with the #1 ranked 11-0 Georgia Bulldogs looming ahead for the final regular season game, the chances of a win there very slim. Their biggest hope would be if the Bulldogs would be looking ahead to the following week with a matchup with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. But, that hasn’t worked the two previous years.
The Orange at least had a backup plan with their last game at home against Wake Forest.
Almost from the beginning, it was obvious who the best team on the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium was.
Tech jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Jamal Haynes (photo) caught the ball at the Cuse 21 and wound his way through several defenders into the end zone.
Syracuse managed their only points of the first half when Brady Denaburg hit on a 44 yard field goal to make it 7-3.
A brief setback when Haynes King tossed up an ill advised pass that found its way in the arms of Isaiah Johnson at the GT45.
But, the interception yielded no points as the Jackets defense held them to a harmless three and out when a second field goal attempt failed from 50.
On the next drive, Tech needed just 1:44 to drive 68 yards thanks to an open Dominick Blaylock, who made a clutch 50 yard catch downfield to put his team up 14-3.
Aiden Birr connected on a 22 yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-3 at the half.
Then, something changed…either because the Jackets took their foot off the gas, unaccustomed to a 21 point lead…or because the Orange came out of the locker room thinking they could win it.
At any rate, the next 19 points belonged to the visitors. Tech seemed to have no answer to the alternating running attack of LeQuint Allen and Dan Villari.
The shocked and nervous Jacket fans in attendance saw the three touchdown lead dwindle down to a slim two point margin. The only reason it wasn’t tied was the failure of a pair of two point conversions.
But, after the second failed attempt, Tech seemed a bit inspired and rediscovered their sleeping offense.
Starting at their 25, Brent Key’s team drove the ball to the Cuse 19 aided by a pair of defensive penalties and Kings legs before the Orange had to take their first time out stopping the clock at 2:27.
Tech had it first and 10 in the red zone at the 19. Three points would force the Orange to score a touchdown to win. But, a TD of their own would maybe put it out of reach.
They got what they needed on the next play with King scampering the remaining 19, finding the end zone untouched…his seventh rushing touchdown of the season.
The nine play 75 yard drive had extended the lead to 9 while eating up a valuable 5:19 on the clock. They left Syracuse just 2:22.
If there was any doubt, Kyle Efford jumped in front of a first play Luke MacPhail pass at the 31, assuring his team a victory.
All the Orange could do was eat up the rest of their timeouts as they committed a pair of frustrated penalties.
Tech took a knee and the win. Final score, Tech 31, Syracuse 22. And with that, the Jackets got their bowl eligibility.
They wait for the annual rivalry with UGA knowing that a bowl won’t be on the line. Gametime is Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:30pm.