Nesbitt, Georgia Tech rally past Wake Forest 24-20
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Joshua Nesbitt shook a rough start with a brilliant fourth-quarter, throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Correy Earls with 15 seconds left in Georgia Tech's 24-20 comeback win over Wake Forest on Saturday night.
Nesbitt had 6 yards rushing on 19 carries before leading the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on three scoring drives in the final period.
Josh Adams rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown and Brandon Pendergrass added a rushing TD for the Demon Deacons (2-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who nearly won with fourth-string quarterback Skylar Jones.
Ted Stachitas and Brendan Cross were injured early in the game with starter Tanner Price already sidelined.
After allowing 48, 68 and 31 points in its last three outings, Wake Forest smothered Georgia Tech's triple option attack until Nesbitt took over. It allowed the Yellow Jackets to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in coach Paul Johnson's tenure.
Nesbitt, who rushed for 72 yards and threw for 130, finally got going with a 50-yard run that set up Scott Blair's third field goal from beyond 40 yards, cutting the deficit to 17-9.
Nesbitt was even better on Georgia Tech's next drive. Facing fourth down, a scrambling Nesbitt appeared all but out of room along the right sideline when he found Embry Peeples on the run for a 20-yard touchdown.
Nesbitt then ran up the middle for the two-point conversion to tie it at 17 with 6:58 left.
Jones, then looked poised, connecting with Devon Brown for 26 yards on third down to the Georgia Tech 20. But the drive stalled and Jimmy Newman booted a 26-yard field goal with 2:21 left to put Wake Forest ahead 20-17.
It was just enough time for highly decorated Nesbitt, who scrambled 16 yards on fourth-and-4 early in the winning drive.
It made up for a miserable three quarters by Georgia Tech, once ranked 15th in the nation before an upset at Kansas began a string of two losses in three games for the defending ACC champions.
With linebacker Matt Woodlief leading the way, Wake Forest used blitzes and speedy ball pursuit to shut down running lanes and pressure Nesbitt.
Jerrard Tarrant's muffed punt gave Wake Forest the ball at the Georgia Tech 19, and Adams' 2-yard run made it 17-6 late in the third quarter.
Wake Forest, which had lost the last two games by a combined 99-24, had used three quarterbacks by the start of its fourth possession after already being short-handed. Price was scratched following a concussion a week earlier against Florida State.
Stachitas, who has been hampered by numerous injuries himself, took a shot on a scramble in Wake's second possession and was knocked out with lower back pain.
Cross, son of former NFL player Randy Cross, was next up. But he lasted only one full series until he hurt his non-throwing shoulder while he was tackled on a scramble.
Next on the dwindling depth chart was Jones, a junior who didn't play his first two seasons and was moved to receiver last season. Jones, though, looked sharp on the lone touchdown drive of the first half. He scrambled to convert a third down, then found Devon Brown for a 12-yard pickup for another third-down conversion.
Brandon Pendergrass capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run on fourth down late in the first half.
Jones was 9-for-20 for 105 yards.