ATLANTA — Wake Forest weathered the first storm against Georgia Tech on Saturday night.
But a few self-inflicted wounds hurt the Deacons, as did a few too many big plays by the Yellow Jackets in Georgia Tech’s 38-24 win.
Wake Forest (4-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) returns for its first home game in a month next weekend riding a three-game losing streak, when the Deacons play host to Louisville.
The Deacons’ lead was 21-10 with one minute left in the first half, the result of three-straight touchdown drives and a defense that had adjusted to Georgia Tech’s option attack.
As good as the first half was offensively for the Deacons, once they received the opening kick of the second half they were on the opposite end of the spectrum. A false start to begin the possession wasn’t good — a snap into no man’s land that lost 17 yards on second down was disastrous.
The Yellow Jackets (4-2, 3-1) scored on their first snap of the second half, quarterback TaQuon Marshall going 49 yards down the Deacons’ sideline. The next touchdown, which came after a 29-yard field goal by Mike Weaver, was a 42-yard run by Qua Searcy that put Georgia Tech ahead for good.
Georgia Tech added a touchdown three minutes into the fourth quarter to make it 31-24. It came on the play after Wake Forest’s Paris Black was called for a personal foul.
Wake Forest failed to convert a fourth-and-1 with 3:44 left, and Marshall went 70 yards for a touchdown on third-and-5 with less than two minutes left to seal the result.
Georgia Tech took the game’s opening drive 70 yards and swallowed up more than eight minutes before settling for a field goal. Of six snaps inside the Deacons’ 10-yard line — extended because of a third-down pass interference — the Yellow Jackets netted minus-2 yards.
Because Wake Forest’s first possession went three-and-out in 34 seconds, and Georgia Tech hit plays for 16 and 14 yards to start its second drive, the early goings had the makings of a precarious situation for the Deacons.
That changed with a fourth-and-7 sack, seniors Grant Dawson and Duke Ejiofor teaming up on Marshall for a 13-yard loss.
Pumping electricity into the Deacons’ sideline, that sack was followed by a six-play, 54-yard drive — 33 of those yards coming on four carries by now-healthy Cade Carney — that ended with John Wolford throwing to Scotty Washington for a 6-yard touchdown. It gave Washington a touchdown catch in back-to-back games.
Georgia Tech’s answer came in the form of another clock-devouring drive, going 75 yards in 13 plays and ending in a 2-yard touchdown by Jerry Howard.
It was then Wake Forest’s turn to impose its pace on this game.
The Deacons marched 80 yards in eight plays. It ended with Wolford hitting Tabari Hines for a 15-yard touchdown pass on third-and-6. The part that made that connection more impressive was that Hines dropped a pass in the end zone on the previous play.
An Ejiofor strip-sack forced Georgia Tech to go three-and-out, and the Deacons made it 21-10 by going 64 yards in nine plays, the last being a 1-yard Wolford run. The previous play was a churning 16-yard run by Carney, who had 70 yards on 10 carries in the first half.
Wake Forest’s offensive line went through some shuffling. Nate Gilliam started for Patrick Osterhage at right guard. In the second half, left guard Phil Haynes was injured on a field goal, bringing freshman Je’Vionte’ Nash into the mix.