Coming off a hard-fought road loss, Tech traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for their first ACC road game of the season against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Jackets were sitting at a 1-2 season record and 0-1 in the ACC in a must-win situation to keep hopes of a bowl game berth alive.
Wake won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving the Jackets the ball to start the game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King brought the offense on the field for a quick three-and-out and a punt to open the game. Wake, however, found some quick rhythm offensively behind a couple of good carries from running back Justice Ellison. The Deacons moved the ball all the way inside the Tech 10-yard line before the Jackets’ defense stood tall and held Wake to a 25-yard field goal, making the game 3-0.
The Jackets needed to respond on their next drive and, after being put in another quick third and long situation after just two plays, King fired downfield to senior tight end Luke Benson for a 38-yard gain that moved the Jackets into Wake territory. From there, the Jackets were in another third-down situation, but, once again King fired downfield and found freshman wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. in the endzone for a 31-yard touchdown pass, putting Tech up 7-3 early on in the first.
Wake would mount an 11-play effort to respond but would be stopped on downs by the Tech defense to end the first quarter. The Jackets would then mount another solid drive that pushed the ball to midfield, but King went for it all on a second down and four play where he overshot Singleton Jr. and the ball fell into the Wake defender’s arms, giving the Deacons the ball at their own 25-yard line. The Jackets defense would rise to the occasion and create a three-and-out highlighted by a junior defensive lineman Kyle Kennard sack on third down and long.
Tech would receive the ball at their own 17-yard line and move it straight down the field from there. King found a solid rhythm off two 30-yard passing plays as he hit junior receiver Avery Boyd for 31 yards and then a wide open redshirt junior receiver Abdul Janneh for 33 yards and a touchdown that put the Jackets up 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Wake Forest would then throw an interception on the ensuing drive that Tech failed to do anything with; however, on Tech’s punt, Wake Forest muffed it and gave the Jackets the ball at the Wake 11-yard line. The Jackets were not able to break through the Wake defense though and settled for a field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Aidan Birr, pushing the score up to 17-3 in favor of the Ramblin’ Wreck.
The Jackets defense once again rose up, forcing another Wake three-and-out off a redshirt senior linebacker Paul Moala sack. The Wake punter shanked the ensuing punt and gave Tech the ball at the Deacons 38, where Tech would cash in another field goal from Birr to put the score at 20-3 with a 17-point lead going into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Wake got the ball to start the second half and mounted a 12-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, but Wake kicker Matthew Dennis missed the extra point as the score moved to 20-9 Tech. The Jackets would mount a 41-yard drive on their ensuing possession but were unable to push it further and had to punt it away, giving Wake an opportunity to pull the game within one score. The Tech defense once again rose to the occasion and forced a Wake turnover on downs at midfield, giving the Jackets prime field position. Tech would end the third quarter and move the ball down to the Wake 35-yard line, but when faced with a fourth down and six, the Tech offense was unable to find the yardage for a first down and gave the ball back to the Deacons.
The very next play saw senior linebacker Andre White come flying into the backfield and slam into the Wake quarterback, causing a fumble that junior defensive lineman Zeek Biggers would quickly hop on. With the ball at the Wake 26-yard line, the Tech offense would push down to the 10-yard line before sputtering and bringing Birr on for another field goal. With the Jackets now leading 23-9, Wake needed to respond, and on an 11-play, 75-yard drive, the Deacons found the end zone again and pulled the game within one score at 23-16.
Tech would go three-and-out and provide the Deacons with an opportunity to tie the game. With just four minutes left in the game, Wake quickly moved deep into Tech territory. On first and 10 from the Tech 21-yard line, the Wake quarterback evaded the initial rush and sidearmed a throw to the right side of the field, where redshirt junior defensive back Kenan Johnson jumped the route, intercepted the pass and took the ball up to the 32-yard line.
Tech would mount a quick, six-play drive down the field that ended in a 26-yard redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Haynes touchdown run to put the Jackets up 30-16 with just under 90 seconds in the ball game. Wake Forest would throw another interception to seal the game for Tech, and the Jackets would leave North Carolina with their fourth ACC road win of their last five conference road games.
The defense highlighted the game for Tech with eight sacks and five forced turnovers. Kennard had four sacks of his own along with eight tackles, while redshirt senior defensive back Jaylon King was the ACC’s co-defensive back of the week with two interceptions, one pass break up and five tackles. King went 16 for 27 on 222 yards and two scores, pushing him over 1,000 yards on the season. This makes King the first Tech quarterback to reach this mark in just four games since Joe Hamilton in 1999, a season where Hamilton was the Heisman runner-up. The Jackets will be back in Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field on Sept. 30 to face off against the Bowling Green Falcons. The Jackets are seeking their first winning record in five years.