[ Jahmyr Gibbs slicing up the Louisville defense (Hyosub Shin/AJC via ACC Media Services)
By Don Stone, Georgia Tech Express
I can’t believe this was the first football game I’ve attended in person in 13 months. That hasn’t happened in 24 years. In fact, this marks my 30th year of covering Tech sports for the Georgia Tech Express. And it was a good one.
A sold out game by Covid standards featured a steady drizzle throughout. A possible concern for the mistake prone Yellow Jackets who had eight interceptions coming in.
If you were to look at the final score, the last thing you would think was that this was an entertaining competitive game that saw five lead changes. But, that it was.
Louisville made a lot of mistakes to hurt their cause starting with a Hassan Hall fumble on their opening drive at the GT36.
The Jackets turned it into the game’s first points with a drive highlighted by a 30 yard run by Ahmarean Brown into the red zone at the 12. Two plays later, freshman Jahmyr Gibbs found a hole up the middle into the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.
But the rest of the first quarter and most of the second was dominated by the Cardinals who ran up 21 unanswered points to build a 21-7 advantage.
A weak pass rush continued to give quarterback Malik Cunningham time to either find open receivers or to scramble for big yardage, much of it on third and long or fourth down conversions.
But, rather than give up, the Tech defense dug in and held Louisville at bay allowing them to get back in the game while the offense tacked on 19 in a row of their own to regain the lead 26-21.
It all began when they got the ball back with just over a minute left in the half. Showing an explosiveness missing prior, freshman Jahmyr Gibbs ignited their scoring drive catching a short pass and turning it into a big 41 yarder to the LC34. Eleven more with a 14 yard Jalen Camp catch at the nine. A misdirection play pulled all of the defenders to the left as Camp breezed across the goal line on the right for a quick strike score pulling the Jackets to a one score deficit, 21-14.
First half stats showed Louisville with 289 yards of offense to Tech’s 192 rushing for 145 to the Jackets’ 61. A lopsided time of possession advantage of 20:32 to Tech’s meager 9:28.
The Yellow Jackets picked up where they left off with 12 more third quarter points marred by a blocked extra point and a failed two point conversion.
The Cardinals briefly got their lead back with their only second half points of the game to close the third quarter as Cunningham took it in on third and long from the 11. A missed two point conversion of their own gave them a slim 27-26 margin.
Halfway through the final quarter, Malachi Carter sparked another scoring drive as he slipped several defenders maneuvering 41 yards to the 10. A roughing the passer call on Tabarius Peterson gave them a first and goal at the 5.
Here was an example of coaching maybe costing a team a game. A big third down play didn’t get it in. Tech picked up an illegal block call. Head Coach Scott Satterfield could have refused the penalty and forced a field goal attempt. But, instead, he chose to push the Jackets back to the 19. Tech made him pay as Gibbs caught a pass across the middle and dove into the end zone to give the lead back to his team 32-27. Collins tried again for a two point conversation and failed again keeping his lead at 5 with 8:34 left in the game.
Six minutes later was the game breaker as Jeff Sims saw Carter free downfield and threw a strike. The 6’3 junior pulled it down at the 8, evaded the defender as he found his way across the goal line. With just 2:52 left to play, Georgia Tech had extended their lead to two scores, 39-27.
The Jackets put an icing on the cake TD in the closing minute with a 12 yard rush by Dontae Smith. Thus the deceptively lopsided 46-27 score.
The game was obviously much closer than that until the final minutes of the fourth quarter when the Jackets pulled away.
Maybe the Falcons were watching and taking notes.
Amazing what you can do without turning the ball over.
“I’m just really proud of the guys taking those lessons to heart,” said head coach Geoff Collins after the game. “Offensively protecting the ball. You really saw the defense going after the ball to create turnovers and a caused (3) fumbles. It was a complete team win.”
The Jackets’ freshman QB threw for 313 yards and a career high two TDs, rushing for another.
With 450 yards of total offense, Georgia Tech has eclipsed the 400-yard plateau in each of its first four games of the season.
Georgia Tech evened their record at 2-2. Louisville fell to a disappointing 1-3. Collins sprinted to the middle of the field looking for his “dear friend” Satterfield. The two quickly embraced and went their separate ways. Easily the best game Tech has played in some time.
They’ll need more of the same as they wait for powerhouse ACC rival Clemson to invade Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday at noon.