Jackets bounce back big against Kennesaw State

Tech’s Juanyeh Thomas brings down Kennesaw State’s Iaan Cousin in the open field. Tech took the win over the Owls 45-17 on the back of stout defense — the Jackets forced three turnovers — and a balanced offense. // Photo by Alex Dubé Student Publications

For the Tech faithful, the second “cupcake” game of the year was one that played out as such. Kennesaw State made the short trip south to Bobby Dodd, and in a short amount of time the Jackets had the game in hand.

After nearly forcing a three and out on Kennesaw State’s first drive, Tech responded with redshirt junior Jordan Mason’s first ever receiving touchdown on a six-yard pass by redshirt freshman Jordan Yates. Tech would never relinquish the lead.

Tech’s defense showed consistent prowess on Saturday as Kennesaw ran a triple option offense that threw a little bit more than an average Paul Johnson team.

The biggest play was a 70-yard scoop-and-score by redshirt sophomore Jordan Domineck during Kennesaw’s second possession. His run to the south endzone required two stiff arms, the second of which saw Domineck using a Tech defender as a human shield to ward off the last Kennesaw man right before jumping into the right corner of the endzone.

In the postgame interviews, Domineck said of that play, “we were ready to celebrate into the end zone, but I saw out of the corner of my eye that somebody was coming. So I apologize to my boy Charlie [Thomas], but for the greater good, I had to throw him into the block. He got a great block, though.”

That score gave Tech a 14-0 lead, which, even though it was only late in the first quarter, was the only momentum shift needed for Tech to emotionally hang on the rest of the game.

Yates played quarterback the entire game in place of week one starter freshman Jeff Sims, who injured his arm during the Northern Illinois game. It was his first career start at quarterback and he did not disappoint.

When Sims is available again, he may have some serious shoes to fill. Yates threw for four touchdowns on 254 yards with only five incompletions.

Senior Kyric McGowan was the most popular passing target of the game, hauling in five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. No other Jacket had more than two receptions. Sophomore Kalani Norris caught the other of Yates’ touchdowns.

Kennesaw’s only real punch came in the fourth quarter, where they scored on a 54-yard fourth down run by Iaan Cousin, which they followed up with a successful onside kick. They nearly scored on their first play if not for a drop in the endzone. Again, on that possession Kennesaw faced a fourth down, where Xavier Shepherd dropped a beautiful ball in between Tech’s cornerback and safety for a long touchdown to Adeolu Adeleke to bring the score to its closest at since the first quarter at 38-17.

For a game that was fairly normal by the standard of most FBS vs. FCS games, junior Charlie Thomas had a slew of standout plays that effectively put the nail in the coffin for KSU. In the middle of the third quarter, he laid a massive tackle for loss that was reviewed for targeting, eventually with no penalty assessed. The following play he picked off Shepherd to give Tech the ball on Kennesaw’s 30-yard line. Tech did not convert on that turnover after a costly intentional grounding penalty on Yates.

Two Kennesaw drives later, Thomas again picked off Shepherd on a floated pass that no Kennesaw receiver was around, his second forced turnover of the game.

Coach Collins was emphatic about his team’s defensive preparation for Kennesaw’s offense, saying, “That was the reason we won.”

In a little bit of ACC history, Karina Tovar became the first female official to referee an ACC game on field. She had previously worked in Conference USA games.

The Institute heads to Clemson, South Carolina next week to face Clemson for the first time post-Trevor Lawrence, and also the first time since Clemson’s complete bashing of the Jackets last year in Bobby Dodd 73-7. The game is at 3:30 on ABC. Kennesaw State heads to South Carolina as well, playing Wofford in Spartanburg.