Georgia Tech Football: Struggles in Red Zone Ultimately Doom Jackets in 23-13 Loss

Sep 26, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Geoff Collins looks on against the Syracuse Orange during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Geoff Collins looks on against the Syracuse Orange during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Georgia Tech fell to 3-6 on the season on Saturday night in a 23-13 loss to NC State headlined by red zone struggles for the Yellow Jackets.

Looking for their second straight win on Saturday night, Georgia Tech’s inability to finish and capitalize on drives reaching NC State territory doomed the Yellow Jackets and their chances to take down the Wolfpack. The Jackets lost the game despite having the edge in both yards and time of possession on Saturday, outgaining the Wolfpack 412-397 and having a 31:53 to 28:07 advantage in time of possession.

Despite having a quality day both throwing the ball and running the ball, the Yellow Jackets’ 13 points are the result of their last four drives into NC State territory resulting in just six points. On three of those drives, the Jackets were able to get into the NC State red zone, getting to the Wolfpack’s 13, 7, 5-yard lines respectively but ended up in a turnover on downs and settling for back-to-back field goals.

The failure to score touchdowns on all three drives, ultimately resulted in a 15-point swing in the game, instead of possibly leading the game 28-20 with just over 11:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jackets were down 20-13. Even if the Jackets were able to score on both of the drives that they settled for field goals, it would’ve put the Jackets at least in striking position to win the game late.

While on the stat sheet, it will officially say the Yellow Jackets were 2-for-3 in the red zone for the game, ultimately getting as close as they did on those three drives and only getting six points is inexcusable. You’ll have a hard time beating any opponent by doing that alone a quality team like NC State.

Despite the lack of points on the board, the Yellow Jackets offense had a pretty good day stat-wise as alluded to above.

Tech quarterback Jeff Sims had himself a decent day through the air completing 13-of-27 passing attempts for 151-yards. He added 93 yards and a touchdown on the ground over 17 carries. Sims did have a fumble in the game which remains a problem for the true freshman but it was recovered by the Yellow Jackets. All in all, Sims’ performance on Saturday was a quality one and while you’d like to see a higher completion percentage, he played well, didn’t turn the ball over, and for the most part, gave his team a quality chance at a win.

The Jackets rushing attack was the star of the offense overall on Saturday, rushing for 261-yards in the game on 51 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. While we noted Sims 93-rushing yards above, Jordan Mason had himself a strong performance as well, picking up 99-yards on 21 carries. Dontae Smith had 43 yards of his own on nine carries while Jamious Griffin had 25 yards on three carries against the program he was once committed to.

Additionally, Junior wide receiver Adonicas Sanders had the best game of his Tech career, totaling seven receptions on nine targets for 105-yards but was not able to get into the endzone. Only four other receivers recorded a reception in the game while four other receivers were targeted but failed to record a reception including Malachi Carter with five targets.

Defensively, it was a mixed bag of a day for the Jackets defense. The Yellow Jackets secondary had a terrible day at the office allowing NC State quarterback Bailey Hockman to complete 23 of 36 passing attempts for 309-yards. While he didn’t throw any touchdowns in the game, he averaged 13.4 yards per completion throughout the night and was consistently able to move the ball on the Yellow Jackets. That being said, the Jackets were missing a pair of key members in the secondary in Kaleb Oliver and Tre Swilling.

The defenses worst quarter came in the second when they allowed the Wolfpack to put up 17-points rather easily resulting in a 20-7 lead for the Wolfpack going into halftime. The Jackets in that second quarter allowed nearly 200 yards of total offense on the Wolfpack’s three scoring drives in the quarter, the Wolfpack did it in just a combined six minutes and 38 seconds of action. The defense ultimately settled down after halftime but the offensive struggles in the red zone and the 20-7 deficit were ultimately too much to overcome.

However, the rush defense and front seven for a second straight week put in a strong effort, allowing just 88 yards on 32 attempts, an average of 2.8 yards per attempt. David Curry had himself a night, recording 12 tackles including half a sack and two tackles for a loss. Freshman defensive end Kyle Kennard stepped up in the absence of Chico Bennett, Jordan Domineck, and Curtis Ryans, recording two tackles including 1.5 sacks.

As a team, the Yellow Jackets against the Wolfpack recorded two sacks and seven tackles for a loss in the game. They also recorded four quarterback hurries in the game.

Ultimately, the game will be recorded as a loss in the books for the Yellow Jackets but there is certainly a good amount of positives to take away from the game. Whether it be the offense consistently being able to move the ball (until the red zone), the rushing attack having a strong game, the defense being able to stop a talented NC State backfield, or even players stepping up in the absence of others. The Yellow Jackets will look to bounce back from the loss when they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers this upcoming Thursday at 7:00 p.m with the game televised on ESPN3.