Georgia Tech

Johnson fires up Benson, who has big game against Wake Forest

Georgia Tech running back KirVonte Benson (30) eludes a tackle by Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates III (3) in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The host Yellow Jackets won, 38-24.
Georgia Tech running back KirVonte Benson (30) eludes a tackle by Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates III (3) in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The host Yellow Jackets won, 38-24. TNS

At practice Wednesday, Georgia Tech B-back KirVonte Benson was wearing a red non-contact jersey. He was still nursing a hamstring injury and only was scheduled to run that day.

But head coach Paul Johnson changed the plans.

“I went up to him in practice, and told him if he didn’t practice, he wasn’t going to play,” Johnson said. “All of a sudden, he came out of that red shirt and was going 100 mph. He’s a tough kid. He’s a tough, tough kid.”

Benson is a competitor, and Johnson’s words stoked his fires just a little more.

“The player in me just wanted to play, so I switched over to a yellow (jersey) and was able to play this weekend,” Benson said. “I’m glad I did. It was a hell of a performance.”

Benson rushed 26 times — so much for his sore hamstring — and gained 136 yards in the Yellow Jackets’ 38-24 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. Those numbers caused his eyes to flash when he saw them at the postgame media conference. He also scored on an 11-yard run.

The only time Benson left the game was early in the second quarter. He landed on the ball awkwardly and lost his breath. He left the game for three plays, enough time to allow Jerry Howard to run three times and score a touchdown.

Searcy off the missing list

Qua Searcy produced the big play that helped turn the momentum back toward Georgia Tech. It’s the sort of game-breaker that had been missing through the first five games for the junior from Barnesville.

It was late in the third quarter when Searcy headed toward the right corner and took a pitch from TaQuon Marshall. Searcy turned up field and switched into another gear, allowing him to split through a pair of would-be tacklers and end up with a 42-yard touchdown.

Until then Searcy’s longest run from scrimmage this season had been 14 yards. He finished with five carries for 57 yards, giving him 192 yards this season.

Defense comes up big on fourth downs

Wake Forest attempted three fourth-down conversions in the second half, and Georgia Tech stopped each one.

“The defense did a good job holding them to three points in the second half, got some fourth-down stops,” Johnson said.

Late in the third quarter, Wake Forest had fourth-and-4 at the Georgia Tech 34. Quarterback John Wolford was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Victor Alexander. Early in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest had fourth-and-3 at the Georgia Tech 40. This time Wolford’s pass fell incomplete and well-defended by safety A.J. Gray.

Midway in the fourth quarter, the Deacons had fourth-and-1 at the Georgia Tech 24. The ball went to Cade Carney, who was stopped at the line by Bruce Jordan-Swilling.

“(Defensive coordinator Ted) Roof just called the right play at the right time, and I knew I just had to execute,” Alexander said. “I knew they had been going for a good drive, and we had to make a play. It was just my time to shine.”

Tech’s fourth-down fiasco

The Yellow Jackets lost the momentum late in the first quarter after choosing to go for it on fourth-and-7 at the Wake Forest 33. The Yellow Jackets were too close to punt and too far away for a field goal.

But the play was blown up from the snap, with Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor sacking Marshall for a 13-yard loss. The momentum carried over to the Wake offense, which drove six plays for the go-ahead touchdown.

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