No. 20 Tech defeated Florida State for its first ever road win against the Seminoles on Saturday night, 49-44.
The two teams combined for nearly 1100 yards of total offense, 51 first downs, 13 touchdowns and 10 drives of 60 yards or more. The game was delayed due to lightning in the area for 78 minutes after Tech had tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter.
There was just one punt between the two offenses during the game, a Florida State punt in the third quarter.
“If we had to punt, we probably would not have won the game,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
Redshirt junior Josh Nesbitt helped lead Tech’s offense with 27 carries for 143 yards and 131 yards passing. He had four total touchdowns. Junior A-back Jonathan Dwyer had his second 100-yard rushing game for the season, carrying the ball 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
There were 10 offensive possessions between the two teams in the first half and all but one ended in a touchdown. The sole drive which did not end in a touchdown was a 15-second Tech possession to end the half. The teams went into their locker rooms with Florida State leading 35-28. While field position can normally be an indicator of offensive success, neither team had particularly favorable field position in the half: Tech’s average drive started at its own 34 and Florida State’s at its own 23.
On Tech’s second possession of the game, junior A-back Anthony Allen was able to rush for 60 yards down the sideline to set up Nesbitt’s 1-yard rush that tied the game, 14-14.
“It’s like a track meet. Once you get the ball just sprint,” Allen said.
Allen finished with four carries and 81 yards.
Despite the close score, Florida State had a clear advantage in some of the key categories at the end of the half. Florida State outgained Tech by a significant portion, totaling 403 yards of total offense to Tech’s 243. The Seminoles also had the ball twice as long as the Jackets, holding it for 20:23 while the Jackets only had it for 9:37.
The time of possession was skewed toward the Florida State because Tech did not have a scoring drive longer than 4:12 and averaged 2:20 per drive. There were three plays of 35 yards or longer and three touchdown drives of just two plays or less.
“We talked at half time and I told them there was not a difference between [this] game and a 7-0 game. We were down seven, we were going to get the ball first and we just had to get a couple of stops,” Johnson said.
On Tech’s first possession in the second half, Josh Nesbitt fumbled the snap at Tech’s 24-yard line to set Florida State’s offense up deep in Tech territory. The defense made its first stop of the night, holding the Seminoles’ offense to negative yardage and forcing a field goal attempt which was wide left.
Tech’s next drive was its third scoring drive of 20 seconds or less, a deep pass to junior receiver Demaryius Thomas which was caught despite a defensive pass interference call. The 73-yard strike was one of two catches for Thomas, who finished with two catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. This evened the score 35-35.
Tech took the first lead of the night on its next offensive drive in what was the longest time of possession for either team on one drive. The 9:07 possession was 16 plays and 80 yards long. It had three third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversion and had only one play longer than 15 yards. There was only one pass attempt, helping to keep the clock moving.
“We were so far down in time of possession at half time and basically the best way to play defense was to keep them off the field and that’s what we were able to do. We were able to eat up the whole third quarter,” Johnson said.
After the touchdown, the game shifted to a much more defensively oriented game. Tech forced a three-and-out on Florida State’s next possession and the next four combined possessions all resulted in lost fumbles.
On Tech’s second fumble Nesbitt attempted a pitch to sophomore A-back Roddy Jones on the option. The ball was not handled well and was dropped to the ground. It was recovered by Florida State linebacker Nigel Carr. When Carr attempted to advance the ball forward, Nesbitt ripped the ball from Carr’s possession and was able to regain possession on the strip. Because the referees ruled a change of possession had occurred on the play, Tech technically had started a new drive and had a first down at Florida State’s 25-yard line.
“I thought Josh Nesbitt played a great game. The play he made to steal the ball back from the [defender] when Roddy [Jones] dropped the pitch was probably the play of the game,” Johnson said.
While Tech’s defense conceded 539 total yards and allowed 10-of-13 third-down conversions, it was able to hold Florida State to just nine points and 126 yards in the second half. It also forced a fumble in Tech territory. Junior defensive end Derrick Morgan finished with one sack and two tackles-for-loss.
“We’re going to have to win some games like [this] and we’re going to win some games 10-7,” Johnson said.
“Our main problem was the wishbone, the kids just couldn’t figure it out. We simply couldn’t stop them. Forty four points should’ve won that game,” said Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden said.
Georgia Tech will next face Virginia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium for Homecoming. Georgia Tech has lost three of the last four meetings and lost last year’s Homecoming against Virginia. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.