"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Do the Yellow Jackets have any sting?

Georgia Tech’s football squad comes to town on Sept. 23
Then-Wake Forest QB John Wofford celebrates with his team when the Demon Deacons and Georgia Tech last met in 2017.
Wake Forest Athletics
Then-Wake Forest QB John Wofford celebrates with his team when the Demon Deacons and Georgia Tech last met in 2017.

Opponent at a Glance

Coaching Staff

The Yellow Jackets are currently 1-2, with a 39-34 defeat at home to Louisville and last week’s 48-23 loss at No. 15 University of Mississippi. They have a win against the FCS’ South Carolina State University, though. In their losses, Georgia Tech has looked very competitive, but are not a complete team, as shown by a squandered 28-13 halftime lead versus Louisville and a valiant three-and-a-half quarters against a good Ole Miss team — before allowing 24 points in the last eight minutes of the game. 

Georgia Tech is in their first full year of the Brent Key era, who was promoted to head coach at his alma mater following a disastrous four years under Geoff Collins. Long gone are the days of Paul Johnson and the triple option terrorizing the ACC, and now Key is tasked with returning the Yellow Jackets back to relevance. An offensive coach by trade, Key coached the Georgia Tech offensive line before his midseason promotion last year. His 4-4 record as interim coach, including ranked wins at the University of Pittsburgh and at UNC, brought optimism back to Techwood Drive in Atlanta. 

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Buster Faulkner is in his first year as offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech, being a former offensive quality control coach at Tech’s hated rival, the University of Georgia. Faulkner was instrumental in Georgia’s back-to-back titles by ensuring the Bulldogs’ offense scored points, which they did…a lot. So far this year, Georgia Tech’s offense has been quite balanced, ranking 14th in total yards per game, 20th in passing yards per game, and 29th in rushing yards per game. 


Calling the plays for the other half of Georgia Tech’s team is Andrew Thacker. Thacker’s defenses have trended towards the bottom of the ACC during his five years in Atlanta, typically giving up more than 30 points per game, and this season is no exception. While slightly above average in allowed passing yards (197.7 ypg), the run defense is atrocious. So atrocious, in fact, that they rank 131st out of 133 FBS college football teams, allowing teams to run the ball to a tune of 240.7 yards per game.

Under center for the Yellow Jackets is Texas A&M transfer Haynes King, who has quietly been one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC this year. In his first year in Atlanta, King has thrown for an ACC-leading 901 yards and completed 68 of his 102 throws, good for an efficient 10.8 yard average and a 66.7% completion percentage — fourth in the ACC in both metrics. King also leads the ACC in passing touchdowns, dishing out nine to only one interception. King’s production didn’t slow down against either Louisville or No. 15 Ole Miss, with a total of 620 yards, five touchdown passes and one interception thrown against two above average defenses. King can also be a threat with his legs, turning 25 carries into 95 yards and a touchdown. With good performances against good defenses, it’s not hard to imagine that King will produce a solid statline on Saturday night.

Lining up beside King is sophomore running back Jamal Haynes. The tailback has run for 236 yards, ranking sixth in the ACC, on 39 carries, averaging a pretty good 6.1 yards per carry. However, Haynes has only registered one touchdown. Haynes is also a threat in the passing game with nine receptions for 86 yards. The thunder to Haynes’ lightning is junior Trey Cooley, who has also posted an average of 6.1 yards per carry, but with slightly less volume at 32 carries for 196 yards. Cooley is Georgia Tech’s goalline back, as evidenced by his three rushing touchdowns.

The Ramblin’ Wrecks main receiving threat is true freshman Eric Singleton Jr. The speedy Georgia-native has caught 10 passes for 200 yards, an incredible 20 yards per catch, while also snagging three touchdowns, including one in each game. Against Ole Miss, Singleton Jr. caught five passes for 97 yards, showing his ability to perform in big games. Another receiving threat is Malik Rutherford, who has put up a respectable 179 receiving yards on 14 receptions. With both receivers having longest receptions at above 50 yards, the Georgia Tech passing game has shown it can put together big plays. 


As previously mentioned, the Georgia Tech defense leaves a lot to be desired. Their horrid run defense gave up 299 rushing yards to Ole Miss, as well as five touchdowns on the ground. It was a similar story against Louisville, giving up 227 rushing yards on an average of 6.7 yards per carry. Unlike Ole Miss, though, most of Louisville’s points were racked up through the air. Evenly lowly FCS South Carolina State nearly tallied 200 rushing yards. 

The statistical leader for the Yellow Jackets’ defense is defensive lineman Kyle Kennard. Good things happen for the Georgia Tech defense when Kennard is near the ball, including an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 15 total tackles. Both turnovers created by the senior were against South Carolina State, but Kennard’s most productive game in terms of tackles was against Louisville, with seven total tackles.

Keys to the Game


It’s pretty simple. Georgia Tech is terrible against the run. Wake Forest has shown it can gash defenses on the ground, such as against Vanderbilt and in the second half of the Old Dominion game. Wake Forest should continue to do that. A continuous rushing attack should tire out the Yellow Jackets’ defense over time and open up deep shots for Mitch Griffis to air it out. 

Start off Strong

Do you know the first step to getting out of a hole? It’s to stop digging. The first half of the Old Dominion was one of the worst halves of football I’ve ever seen. Wake Forest looked uninterested, slow and sloppy as mistake after mistake dug the Demon Deacons into a very deep hole. Fortunately, a strong second half performance squeezed out a win, but it wasn’t pretty. Wake Forest can’t afford a slow start against Georgia Tech; otherwise they’ll dig a grave, and there’ll be no climbing out.

Don’t Let Haynes King Beat You

Although Old Dominion only scored 10 points through their offense, Wake Forest’s secondary was beaten a handful of times and was lucky that Grant Wilson couldn’t connect on more deep shots to open receivers. King will. The communication in the secondary needs to be near-perfect, if not perfect in order to limit the damage King can do through the air. 

Final Prediction

This Georgia Tech team is a lot better than their record indicates. They hung with a ranked team on the road for 50 minutes and choked a 15-point lead against Louisville. Georgia Tech has yet to play a full game of good football against good competition, and I think that continues. This game will be close at halftime, and I even think Georgia Tech will lead at half. But if Wake Forest runs the ball consistently, Georgia Tech will run out of gas. My prediction is that Wake Forest pulls away in the fourth quarter to win 34-27. Big games from Demond Claiborne, Justice Ellison and Jacob Roberts bring Wake Forest to 4-0 and 1-0 in ACC play.

Correction Sept. 21, 2023: A previous version of this article contained a misstatement in the photo caption. The correct information, that Wake Forest and Georgia Tech last played in 2017, is now displayed.

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    ClaireSep 22, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    Hopefully the Demon Deacons can pull off the win! Thanks for your insightful look into the game.