Georgia Tech got a victory that likely will prove crucial to its bowl hopes before the month is over, bottling up North Carolina State's offense and overcoming some mistakes of its own to win 24-14 Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (5-3, 4-3 ACC) moved within one win of having the six needed to qualify for the postseason. They have home games left against Connecticut and Virginia, plus the season finale on the road at Georgia.
The Jackets won despite being without TB P. J. Daniels (thigh) the entire game and losing his replacement, Chris Woods (hamstring), early on.
Freshman TB Rashaun Grant, who had lost his role as Daniels' backup, stepped up with 122 yards rushing.
The Jackets were down 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 14-7 at the half and the three-quarter mark.
A 17-point fourth quarter made the difference. PK Travis Bell got it started with a 26-yard field goal to close the gap to 14-10 with 13:57 left, and then CB Reuben Houston came up with a key interception on North Carolina State's first play on the ensuing possession. That set up the Jackets at the Wolfpack's 49-yard line.
It took the Jackets 11 plays to cover that distance, including four from the 2-yard line, but they got the go-ahead touchdown on QB Reggie Ball's fourth-down toss to WR Levon Thomas. The drive also featured an incredible catch by freshman WR Calvin Johnson, who reached back while in mid-air to haul in a 12-yard strike on third-and-4. He also caught a 27-yard pass on third-and-10 from the N.C. State 31-yard line to keep the drive alive.
The clinching score came on CB Kenny Scott's 49-yard return of an interception with only 1:22 remaining.
Thus, Tech managed to win despite a three-interception, 9-for-27 passing day by Ball.
GAME BALL GOES TO
TB Rashaun Grant -- Just a couple of weeks ago he was listed as third-string. But he moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart when starter P.J. Daniels (thigh) was injured and then had to take over the primary role when Chris Woods (hamstring) went out early. He responded with 122 yards on 20 rushes in the victory over North Carolina State.
KEEP AN EYE ON
WR Levon Thomas -- The senior has been overshadowed by the play of freshman Calvin Johnson, but look for the Jackets to get him more involved as defenses concentrate on stopping Johnson. Thomas had only two catches for 15 yards against North Carolina State, but one was a touchdown grab on fourth-and-1.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"The thing is, our guys fought back. Walking into that dressing room at halftime was bad. These guys fought their rear off in the second half to win the ballgame. You can't say enough about the character that this football team has." -- Coach Chan Gailey
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Yellow Jackets had a respectable 178 yards rushing against a tough Wolfpack team, but even more impressive was their defense. The Jackets held the Wolfpack to only 72 yards on the ground and held the Pack to one touchdown, the second coming on an interception.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK
QB Reggie Ball continues to struggle in the passing game. Under 50 percent for the season, he was only 9-for-27 against North Carolina State with three interceptions. He did throw two touchdown passes, including one on fourth-and-1 to WR Levon Thomas.
TB P.J. Daniels (thigh) sat out the game and his backup, Chris Woods (hamstring), left early on.