The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets closed out their 2016 football season with a strong TaxSlayer Bowl performance collecting a 33-18 victory over the University of Kentucky.
The Yellow Jackets looked like a whole other team on Saturday in the first half when they took on the Kentucky Wildcats in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
A defense that struggled at times throughout the season played lights out in the first half. The offense moved up and down the field with ease, Kentucky showing almost no resistance
It was evident from the first possession of the game that it was going to be Georgia Tech’s day. On a third and medium for Kentucky, senior defensive lineman forced Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson to fumble. Fellow senior lineman P.J Davis was right there to pick up the loose ball and was able to take it to the house for the easy score.
It would be the first of many times the Yellow Jackets swarmed the Kentucky quarterback in Saturday’s game.
Overall, the Wildcats were never able to get their 16th ranked rushing offense going . Despite reaching over 100-yards rushing in the first half, Kentucky finished with just 149 rushing yards. Well below their season average of 241.3 yards per game.
For the Yellow Jacket offense, Dedrick Mills who took over as the lead back going into the bowl game had a career day (as predicted here). Mills finished with 169 rushing yards and a score on 31 carries. Senior quarterback Justin Thomas had himself a nice last game as a Yellow Jacket as well. Thomas collected 42 yards on the ground, including a 21-yd touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Thomas was also efficient through the air, collecting 105 yards on six completions.
But the MVP of Saturday’s game outside Dedrick Mills may very well be senior kicker Harrison Butker. Butker had a Georgia Tech bowl game record four field goals on Saturday including a 52-yard field goal that closed out the first half.
For Kentucky, their struggles in the first half proved to be too costly to overcome in the second half. Despite being able to throw the ball pretty easily in the second half at times, the Wildcats were not able to overcome the 17-point deficit they dug themselves into at halftime.
While Kentucky did give the Yellow Jackets a bit of a run for their money in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points, the Yellow Jackets were able to use good starting field position and a key third down conversion to put the game away on Dedrick Mill’s 3-yd TD run.
SEC East Dominance:
The victory on Saturday was Georgia Tech’s third win over an SEC East opponent this season, also picking up victories over Georgia and Vanderbilt. Their three SEC East victories would’ve tied them with South Carolina in the SEC East standings and would’ve been ahead of Vanderbilt and Missouri.
The Yellow Jackets open up their 2017 season against another SEC East team in Tennessee next year.
The 33-18 victory gives the Yellow Jackets nine wins on the 2016 season. Their nine victories is a six win improvement on their 3-9 record last season. In a conference that looks wide open next season and with plenty of starters returning, the Yellow Jackets should enter 2016 with plenty of momentum and hype.