Stellar second half lifts Tech to victory

Quarterback Jeff Sims (left) and running back Jahmyr Gibbs (right) accounted for 374 of Tech’s 450 yards on Saturday. // Photo courtesy GTAA

The Cardinals came to Bobby Dodd under the Friday night lights and left still winless in ACC play. Tech, in their gold helmets and navy uniforms, played a low-mistake game and moved to 2-1 in ACC play and 2-2 overall. Behind improvements in three key categories — turnover margin, penalty yardage, and negative plays — the team put together their best looking game of the season and came out on top against a team that was favored by a score entering the evening.

The game got off to a great start for the Jackets, forcing a fumble on Louisville’s first drive before marching 64 yards down the field and scoring on a Jahmyr Gibbs touchdown run. However, Tech’s next three drives went for only a total of 39 yards and Louisville scored 21 unanswered points in response. The final drive of the half was a perfect rendition of the two minute drill though, with Ahmarean Brown’s nine-yard trick play touchdown pass capping off a four play, 75 yard drive. The teams headed into their locker rooms with the Louisville lead just 21-14.

Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham was fairly effective in the first two quarters, though he overshot a number of throws, including one on which he was bailed out by a diving Tutu Atwell in the endzone for a touchdown. He was effective on the ground when the pocket collapsed and rushed for a score on a 4th and goal for his second touchdown of the half. Cunningham’s play coupled with strong work on the ground from running back Javian Hawkins gave Louisville a 100-plus yard differential at halftime.

Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham was fairly effective in the first two quarters, though he overshot a number of throws, including one on which he was bailed out by a diving Tutu Atwell in the endzone for a touchdown.

He was effective on the ground when the pocket collapsed and rushed for a score on a 4th and goal for his second touchdown of the half.

Cunningham’s play coupled with strong work on the ground from running back Javian Hawkins gave Louisville a 100-plus yard differential at halftime.

Tech’s second drive of the third quarter ended with a touchdown as Jamious Griffin found the end zone from three yards out.

A blocked Gavin Stewart extra point attempt left the Jackets still down by a point, but a forced fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the ball right back to the offense on the Louisville 27.
Jeff Sims found a hole in the defense with his legs and made the score 26-21 after a failed two-point conversion try.

The Cardinals responded on their next drive with a 75 yard drive finished by Cunningham’s 11 yard run for the score. After a failed two-point conversion attempt of their own, Louisville held a one point lead at 27-26.

After a Pressley Harvin punt, Louisville began to drive again before the Jackets forced their third fumble of the night. With the momentum swung in their favor, Jeff Sims and company drove down to take the lead on a 19 yard touchdown pass to Jahmyr Gibbs, but another failed two-point attempt kept the lead at just five.

After forcing another punt, Tech extended the lead with a 34 yard pass to Malachi Carter, Sims’ second touchdown toss of the night.
Forcing a turnover on downs thanks to a pair of sacks, the home team got the ball back one last time, and Dontae Smith punched it in on a 12 yard run to cap off an unanswered 20-point rally and end the game with a score of 46-27.

After a first half where the Jackets hung around but were unable to impose their will, a dominant second half led to a convincing win.

The yardage numbers essentially flipped on the back end, with the game totals for each team ending up 471-450 in the Cardinals’ favor. A pair of forced fumbles in the second half and a +3 turnover margin for the game gave a number of short fields to Collins’ squad without gifting the opponent the same advantage.

Fewer penalties and penalty yards along with quadruple the number of negative plays forced were big contributors as well. Louisville’s Marlon Character picked up a targeting call for 15 of Louisville’s 78 penalty yards to earn himself an ejection and extend Tech’s first touchdown drive of the 3rd quarter.

Tech had two fewer penalties and 23 fewer penalty yards, generally avoiding drive-ending gaffes.

Posting eight tackles for loss to the Cardinals’ two and recording three sacks while taking none allowed the Jacket defense to force Louisville to play behind the chains.

Weather factored all evening, but after two weeks off to work on ball security, the rainy conditions only affected one side.

Tech is in the top ten in the country in turnovers forced with nine total after Friday’s game, so if the defense can continue at that pace, many more short fields may come. If the offense can continue to produce yards without handing the ball back to the opponents like they did on Friday, look for more wins after the Jackets play Notre Dame on Halloween.

The 450 yards of Tech offense came at the hands of a variety of players.
Five players recorded at least one carry, and four of those players recorded at least five runs. A half dozen players caught a pass, even with only twelve completions on the night.

Ahmarean Brown recorded a completion on a trick play, and seven players in all added a touchdown to their resume during the game.

Collins’ offense continues to spread touches among players, and the playcalling was as diverse as it has been all season, a good sign going into the Clemson game.

Following the loss, the Cardinals travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on No. 4 Notre Dame on Oct. 17.

Tech will play host to No. 1 Clemson at noon on the 17th after a week to prepare for what has become one of college football’s titans.

Heisman favorite Trevor Lawrence and head coach Dabo Swinney will face Notre Dame the week after.

Tech is going to be looking for an upset. Basically, it would be a mistake for Clemson to overlook the Jackets, given the potential shown against Lousiville.