Georgia Tech fends off Kentucky for TaxSlayer Bowl victory

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Georgia Tech (9-4) held off a late rally attempt by Kentucky (7-6) and pulled out a well-timed pass play to lead to a cushion-padding touchdown to win the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, 33-18. Dedrick Mills rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown for Georgia Tech and Justin Thomas passed for 105 yards and ran for 42 more yards and a touchdown in the win over the Wildcats.

Georgia Tech got things started early with the defense putting the first points on the scoreboard. P.J. Davis picked up a loose ball fumbled away by Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson on a third down play on the game’s third play of the game. Davis returned the recovered fumble for a touchdown, which was later followed by a Georgia Tech field goal on the first offensive series for the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter. After Kentucky put a dent on the scoreboard with a field goal early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech padded its lead with 10 more points before halftime. Quarterback Justin Thomas took off running for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Georgia Tech continued to pad its decisive lead with a pair of second-half field goals, while Kentucky finally got a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Johnson completed a pass to Dorian Baker from 20 yards out, which needed a video review to confirm. The Wildcats needed 12 plays to cover 75 yards for the score, but Georgia Tech responded by putting together a time-consuming drive over 12 plays resulting in a field goal to create a 16-point advantage with 6:16 left to play.

The win by Georgia Tech helps improve the ACC 7-3 in the bowl season (Louisville lost in the Citrus Bowl at the time this game was played). The ACC will end the bowl season with a winning record against the SEC, even if Clemson should happen to lose to Alabama in the national championship game. Georgia Tech now has three bowl victories under head coach Paul Johnson and ends the season with its second-highest win total under Johnson (Johnson won 11 games twice at Georgia Tech).

Georgia Tech’s 2017 season will begin with another game against an SEC East opponent. The Yellow Jackets are scheduled to face Tennessee on Monday, September 4, 2017 in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as one half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, with Alabama and Florida State playing in the spotlight game of the opening weekend two days prior. For Georgia Tech, this will mark three straight games against SEC East opponents with a regular season finale against rival Georgia, this bowl game against Kentucky and the 2017 opener against Tennessee.

Kentucky will start the 2017 season on the road against Southern Miss on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Kentucky avoids the toughest of crossover opponents from the SEC West next season by getting Ole Miss at home and Mississippi State on the road. Kentucky will not face Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas or Texas A&M. Kentucky will also host rival Louisville in Lexington at the end of the 2017 season. The Wildcats will hope to back a second-straight postseason bowl trip for the first time since going to five straight bowl games from 2006 through 2010.

No. 21 UNC scores 21 unanswered points to pull away from Georgia Tech for big ACC Coastal win

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No. 21 North Carolina (7-2, 5-1 ACC) started on the right foot and found a way to close things out in the second half against Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4 ACC). Elijah Hood scored three touchdowns and rushed for 168 yards for the Tar Heels in  48-20 victory to keep UNC in strong contention for the ACC Coastal Division coming down the final stretch.

After Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker kicked a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut UNC’s lead to seven, the Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points, including one short touchdown run by Hood (who had two in the first half). T.J. Logan added a 20-yard touchdown scamper and Mitch Trubisky took off running 18 yards for a score inside the red zone in the fourth quarter. Trubisky also passed for 329 yards and a score. UNC’s offense piled up 636 yards of offense against Georgia Tech, who also managed to pick up 518 yards of offense against the Tar Heels.

Dedrick Mills led Georgia Tech with 132 rushing yards. Quarterback Justin Thomas passed for 184 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 82 yards. Both teams converted eight third downs on 14 (Georgia Tech) and 13 (UNC) opportunities. Georgia Tech, however, was the only team to turn the football over (twice), which led to 14 UNC points in the second half.

For now, UNC leads the ACC Coastal Division with a 5-1 ACC record. They entered the day tied with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies own a head-to-head tiebreaker with the defending division champions. One Virginia Tech loss would give UNC the inside track once again. With Pitt losing at Miami, the division is a two-team race the next few weeks between UNC and Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech is still within reach of a postseason bowl game, but must pick up one win in the final three weeks, with road trips to Virginia Tech (next Saturday) and Georgia in the regular season finale and a home game with Virginia in between.

ACC media poll has Clemson repeating as conference champions

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DeShaun Watson is back from last year’s College Football Playoff runner-up, and with that, there was little debate in the ACC media poll about who will repeat as conference champions in 2016.

Clemson, with 144 votes, was picked to repeat as ACC champions in the conference’s annual media poll. Florida State (39), North Carolina (seven) and Louisville (one) also received votes.

Watson, the Tigers’ junior quarterback, was picked to be the ACC Player of the Year with 164 votes. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook (18), North Carolina running back Elijah Hood (four), Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya (two), Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (two) and Duke cornerback/returner DeVon Edwards (one) also received player of the year votes.

Here’s how the voting broke down by division, with first-place votes in parentheses:

Atlantic                    
1. Clemson (148) – 1,293
2. Florida State (42) – 1,176
3. Louisville (1) – 961
4. NC State – 704
5. Boston College – 441
6. Syracuse – 426
7. Wake Forest – 347
Coastal                
1. North Carolina (121) – 1,238
2. Miami (50) – 1,108
3. Pitt (14) – 859
4. Virginia Tech (3) – 697
5. Duke (2) – 597
6. Georgia Tech (1) – 588
7. Virginia – 261

Hokies keep hopes for one last BeamerBall bowl very much alive

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With Frank Beamer announcing earlier this month that 2015 would be his last as Virginia Tech’s head coach, much was made of this being the long-time Hokie boss’ final Thursday night game.  In the end, the Hokies turned it into a night to remember for the departing coach.

Trailing by two touchdowns early on, VT was able to come back late in the first half, then again late in the second to secure a 23-21 win over Georgia Tech.  The win improved the Hokies to 5-5 on the season, meaning Tech needs to win one of its last two (North Carolina, at Virginia) to ensure Beamer will be going bowling one last time in his storied career and the Hokies won’t be home for the postseason for the first time in more than two decades.

VT had appeared in 22 straight bowl games — all under Beamer — entering the 2015 season, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 33 in a row that will be extended to 34* this season.  GT, meanwhile, tumbled to 3-7, meaning their streak of 18 straight bowl appearances has officially come to an end.  That streak had been tied for third nationally with in-state rival Georgia.

The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, only to see the Hokies score two unanswered touchdowns in the last six minutes of the second to knot the score at 14-all entering the half.  A Brant Mitchell pick-six off a Michael Brewer pass a minute into the third quarter gave GT a seven-point lead at 21-14, with a Joey Slye field goal from 27 yards out slicing the Hokie deficit to four a little less than five minutes later.

Scoreless through the rest of the third and the first third of the final quarter, a Broderick Snoddy fumble was recovered by the Hokies at their own 32-yard line with 10:41 remaining. A three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Yellow Jackets at their own 20-yard line… only to see GT generously hand the ball right back to VT on a fumble of their own on their first play following the punt. Aided by a third-down pass interference call, Travon McMillian‘s four-yard touchdown run, coupled with a missed extra point, gave the Hokies a 23-21 lead, its first of the night, with less than seven minutes left.

That missed PAT didn’t prove costly for the Hokies, however, as the Yellow Jackets failed to get into field goal range on either of their last two drives.

The Hokies outgained by the Yellow Jackets 343-258, and won the turnover battle 3-2 as well.  McMillian led all rushers with 135 yards on the ground, throwing in a pair of touchdowns for good measure.

Tonight’s game was the Yellow Jackets’ 31st on ESPN’s Thursday night package, the most of any FBS program.  The second-most?  Their opponents, the Hokies, with 30.

(*I refuse to comply with this FSU nonsense. The Seminoles’ streak is at 34 straight.)

Duke holds off No. 22 Georgia Tech for early ACC Coastal edge

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The end result may have become a bit tighter than David Cutcliffe would have preferred given the way things started, but he will surely take it. Duke (3-1, 1-0 ACC) scored a nice win in the inclement weather in Durham Saturday afternoon, holding off No. 22 Georgia Tech for a 34-20 victory. Safety Jeremy Cash came through with the big play by breaking through the line of scrimmage and coming from behind Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas to knock the ball loose. Duke recovered the fumble with just over two minutes to play, and Shaquille Powell broke up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown to put the cherry on top of a division win.

Both teams entered this game coming off a loss. Georgia Tech lost last week at Notre Dame, while Duke lost at home against Northwestern. While the weather may not have cooperated early on, the Blue Devils came out on a mission to get back in the win column. Duke scored 19 points in the first quarter to build a good early lead, and the offense had answers for Georgia Tech’s attempts at a rally in the second half.

After Georgia Tech kicked a field goal in the third quarter, DeVon Edwards returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Yellow Jackets would keep chipping away in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Justin Thomas ran in for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the Duke lead to 26-20 after the PAT. Georgia Tech got the ball once more with a little over three minutes to play, but Cash’s forced fumble was the set-up to the knockout blow by Powell’s touchdown run.

The big question now becomes whether or not either of these two has what it takes to be the team to beat in what could be a wide-open ACC Coastal Division? Judging by the way each played on Saturday in Durham, there is room for improvement on both teams. The two teams combined for five turnovers and neither offense had a great showing. Georgia Tech got 326 yards of offense, while Duke picked up 279 yards of offense.

Duke gets a chance to go 2-0 in ACC play next week when they host Boston College. Key game sin division play will come later in October with road games against Virginia Tech and UNC wrapped around a home game against Miami. Georgia Tech will host North Carolina next week, and a win would put them right back in the running. Going 0-2 in the division is not something that will be easy to rally from, even in this division.