RALEIGH – When N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien played football at Navy, in the “dark ages,” the option offense was commonplace. Now, it’s rare for any defense to face it more than once a season.
There is no practicing for the speed at which Georgia Tech runs its triple option. O’Brien tried to have his scout team simulate the Yellow Jackets attack during practice the past week, but it was impossible to prepare for before kickoff.
It took a full quarter before the N.C. State defense was ready for the option. By that time, Georgia Tech was ahead by three touchdowns.
N.C. State pulled within seven points, but a fourth-quarter, 21-point surge pushed No. 21 Georgia Tech to a 45-35 victory Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“When you see it once a year, it’s tough to get ready for,” O’Brien said.
Georgia Tech finished with season-lows in rushing yards (296) and total yards (413), but it was all the Yellow Jackets needed thanks to a fast start.
“It was like we were snowballing a little bit,” linebacker Audie Cole said.
The snowball formed on the first drive of the game.
N.C. State (2-3, 0-2 ACC) forced Georgia Tech into a fourth-and-10 situation, but the Yellow Jackets (5-0, 2-0 ACC) turned a fake punt into a 27-yard gain and another first down.
The Yellow Jackets capped that drive with a 13-yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith, and their next two drives turned into two more trips across the goal line. Before the second quarter was a minute old, Georgia Tech was ahead, 21-0.
N.C. State gave itself plenty of opportunities to pull out its first FBS victory of the season, at least until Georgia Tech grew tired of giving the Wolfpack extra chances.
The comeback started on N.C. State’s longest drive in more than a decade. Quarterback Mike Glennon led N.C. State on a 19-play, 81-yard drive that took nearly 10 minutes. The Wolfpack didn’t score, but the drive seemed to help take Georgia Tech’s offense out of its rhythm and build N.C. State’s.
“The drive really got us going,” Glennon said. “The next drive we put up a touchdown. … We finally started getting things going.”
Glennon led a touchdown drive on the Wolfpack’s final possession of the first half, and running back James Washington, who rushed for a career-high 131 yards, scored on N.C. State’s first play of the second half to bring the Wolfpack within seven points.
Washington helped fuel a reinvigorated N.C. State rushing attack that gained 195 yards after recording minus-26 against Cincinnati nine days ago.
Georgia Tech couldn’t score on a goal-line opportunity on its next possession, but even with the momentum, N.C. State couldn’t capitalize.
That’s when the dam broke.
“We made an effort to come back,” O’Brien said. “… Then it kind of got away from us.”
In less than two and a half minutes early in the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech scored three times.
Smith scored his third touchdown of the game, Isaiah Anderson returned an interception for a touchdown on the next play, and after a quick three-and-out by N.C. State, Georgia Tech scored on its first offensive play – a 38-yard pass from Tevin Washington to Roddy Jones.
Three plays and N.C. State’s comeback was erased.
From there, Georgia Tech cruised to its fourth straight victory against the Wolfpack in Raleigh.
“Somewhere it’s going to turn,” said O’Brien, whose team has only beaten FCS foes Liberty and South Alabama. “We are going to keep grinding away, and we are going to make this thing work.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.