Wake Forest stumbles at home, suffers first loss of season to Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets handed the Deacons a 30-16 defeat in Winston-Salem

Georgia Tech receiver Eric Singleton hauls in a touchdown receptions in the first quarter of the Yellow Jackets’ 30-16 win Saturday at Wake Forest. (Gene Galin / For North State Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM — Haynes King threw a pair of long touchdown passes in the first half while Georgia Tech’s defense racked up eight sacks along with five takeaways to beat Wake Forest 30-16 on Saturday night.

The Yellow Jackets’ Kenan Johnson jumped in front of a sideline throw by Mitch Griffis for a critical late interception with 2:18 left, ending a drive by the Demon Deacons for the tying score after trailing 20-3 at halftime. The offense took advantage for the Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), first with King breaking loose for a 35-yard keeper, then with Jamal Haynes breaking free through the middle for a clinching 26-yard scoring run with 1:25 left.


“It was ups and downs on both sides of the football, and you’ve got to be able to have each other’s back,” Georgia Tech coach Brent Key said. “You can’t rely on one side of the ball or one unit to be the one that produces. When you do that, it becomes a hard game to play, a harder game to manage.”

King struck with a pair of on-target deep balls for those first-half scores. The first came when he went deep down the left side to freshman Eric Singleton Jr., who had a step on defender Dashawn Jones and hauled in the ball in the end zone at the 4:49 mark of the first quarter.

Two drives later, King struck again, zipping the ball downfield on the right side for an in-stride strike to Abdul Janneh and a 33-yard score with 8:04 left in the half for a 14-3 lead.

“When we’re playing good, I’m finding completions, dishing out, finding playmakers and getting it in their hands and letting them work,” King said.

As for the defense, the Yellow Jackets repeatedly collapsed the pocket to take away time and space from Griffis. In addition to the sacks and late interception, Georgia Tech picked off Griffis on a bobbled second-quarter ball, stripped him for a fumble early in the fourth, then added a punctuating late pick in the final seconds with victory in hand.

Georgia Tech had just one sack through the first three games, and Key had said he was unhappy with how his defensive line had practiced earlier this week. That group responded.

“It just felt like it was time,” said lineman Zeek Biggers, who had nine tackles and a half-sack.

Demond Claiborne ran for a short touchdown in the third quarter for the Demon Deacons (3-1, 0-1), while Justice Ellison ran for 137 yards before hobbling off the field late to lead a ground game that largely carried the load for Wake Forest.

“I think we play hard and all the intangibles,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “But when a team keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over and they’re not learning, that’s a sign of a team that’s not really well coached. … We’re not going to beat anybody if we turn it over three times, let alone five times.”

The Demon Deacons get a weekend off before visiting Clemson on Oct. 7.