WINSTON-SALEM – Georgia Tech rallied from behind twice in the fourth quarter Saturday night to escape with a 24-20 victory over Wake Forest at BB&T Field.
Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Correy Earls with 15 seconds remaining to cap the Yellow Jackets’ comeback victory.
Jimmy Newman had kicked a 26-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining to give the Deacons (2-3, 1-2) the lead but it didn’t last.
Georgia Tech (3-2, 1-2) had tied the game with 6:50 remaining when Nesbitt found Embry Peeples for a 20-yard touchdown pass, followed by a two-point conversion run by the quarterback, evening the score at 17-17.
The Deacons were forced to turn to junior Skylar Jones when injuries knocked out starter Ted Stachitas (lower back) and his replacement, Brendan Cross (shoulder).
Wake Forest’s regular starter, Tanner Price, was already out due to a concussion he suffered last week at Florida State.
Jones had played only briefly this season, in the Deacons’ lopsided victory over Presbyterian. He had three carries and completed the only pass he threw against the Blue Hose.
Last season, Jones was a reserve wide receiver, who played in only one game.
Against Georgia Tech, though, Jones looked as comfortable as a man on vacation. He made a handful of key third-down conversions and led the Wake Forest offense with a steady hand
In his third series, Jones led Wake Forest on a 12-play, 57-yard scoring drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Brandon Pendergrass.
Jones had a 16-yard third-down scramble to keep the drive alive and later connected with Cameron Ford on a 21-yard pass to move Wake Forest to the Georgia Tech 2-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Yellow Jackets’ 1-yard line, the Deacons elected to go for it and Pendergrass sliced inside, stretching the ball across the goal line for the score with 1:22 remaining in the second quarter as the Deacons built a 10-6 halftime lead.
Stachitas, the opening game starter until a hand injury sidelined him, was injured on the Deacons’ second possession. While scrambling for an eight-yard gain, Stachitas took a hard hit that kept him laid out of the field for several minutes while doctors tended to him.
Cross was in for two series but hurt his left (non-throwing) shoulder when he scrambled deep in Georgia Tech territory late in the first quarter.
Wake Forest took advantage of a Georgia Tech mistake to stretch its lead to 17-6 late in the third quarter. Georgia Tech’s Jarrard Tarrant fumbled a punt and Wake Forest’s Mike Olson fell on it at the Yellow Jackets’ 19-yard line.
Five plays later, Josh Adams sailed in for a two-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Wake Forest got another opportunity early in the fourth quarter when Georgia Tech punter Sean Poole bobbled a snap and managed just a 10-yard punt, giving the Deacons’ possession at the Yellow Jackets’ 35-yard line. The Deacons failed to take advantage, leading to a punt.
A defense that had surrendered 147 points in the last three games gave Georgia Tech’s vaunted spread option offense plenty of trouble in the first half. The Yellow Jackets had to settle for a pair of Scott Blair field goals – from 45 and 47 yards -- for its only scores before halftime.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe changed schemes during the week, adopting a five-man front to counter the Yellow Jackets’ uncommon offense. It worked through the first three quarters but the Yellow Jackets picked holes in the Wake Forest defense in the fourth quarter.