Inside Georgia Tech's Final Drive Vs. NC State

Matthew McGavic

Under the lights of Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Yellow Jackets put together a phenomenal first half against the visiting NC State Wolfpack. They got off to a fast start just like head coach Geoff Collins had implored them to do, and they were able to hold the Wolfpack to just a field goal after they had driven nearly the length of the entire field. At the half, Tech led by 3 scores, the first time they had done so all season.

Then NC State head coach Dave Doeren told his team "We need to play the best half of our life to win this game." And the Wolfpack certainly listened to him. Once they retook the field, the Wolfpack scored 23 of their 26 total points, including going on a 16 point run over a nearly 11 minute span during the third and fourth quarters.

But then Geoff Collins had a message of his own.

"We asked them to finish that last drive."

Taking the field with over 5 minutes left in the game and most of the momentum swinging in the opposite direction was not going to be an easy task. Everyone with an ounce of football acumen knew that Georgia Tech was going to run the ball. At that point in the game, they'd already accumulated 229 yards on the ground, so it should have been easy to come up with a stop.

James Graham, Jordan Mason, and that offensive line thought differently. They were locked in, and determined to carry out what Coach Collins had asked them to do.

First play of the drive, Mason takes it only a couple yards up the middle. It was as to be expected, with NC State obviously playing run commit in the situation. Mason gets it again, with NC State defenders meeting him just past the line of scrimmage. But on pure effort and will, Mason took what would have been a 2 yard gain into a six yard gain, dragging defenders with him to make for a much more manageable 3rd down situation.

"The will of our offensive line, the will of our running backs, blocking on the perimeter from our tight ends was really, really cool," Geoff Collins said about the resiliency of his offensive unit on the final drive.

The Wolfpack had paid so much attention to Mason at this point, that when James Graham ran the toss option on 3rd and 2, Graham was able to pick up the first down with ease, as NC State's Jalen Scott had his eyes on Mason nearly the whole time. But there was still 3 and a half minutes left on the clock. Georgia Tech needed another conversion to put the game on ice.

Mason gets the ball yet again, and again NC State meets him just past the line of scrimmage. However, that was not the end of the play. Mason was able to break free of the mass of bodies that converged on him, and break free for a 8 yard gain with Wolfpack defenders all over him.

“Only thing that was going through my head was run the ball like Beast Mode," Mason said in regards to his efforts on Georgia Tech's final drive. "When someone trusts you with the ball, you got to do what you got to do to be trusted."

2nd and 2. Tech runs an outside zone run but is stopped just short of a first down. But the key factor of this play was not the stop by NC State, it was actually James Graham's catch of the snap. Walk-on center William Lay III had an errant snap that was fired to the right of Graham's head, and at blazing speed. Had Graham not been locked in, the ball would have almost certainly flown into the red zone. Even if Tech had recovered the ball, the ensuing 3rd down play would have been nearly impossible to convert.

Here we are at the play of the game. If NC State comes up with the stop, they get the ball with around 2 minutes left on the clock. If Georgia Tech converts, it's game over. The ball is snapped, at Mason is immediately met behind the line of scrimmage for what should have certainly been a loss of yards.

However, shades of Marshawn Lynch were seen yet again on The Flats, as Mason broke free of the initial contact and was able to convert for the first down.

Tech would be able to run out the remaining clock, and escape the fervent comeback attempt by the Wolfpack. Though they would only capture their 3rd win on the season as a result, the will and resiliency displayed on their final drive shows that the Yellow Jackets are completely bought in to what head coach Geoff Collins is selling them. It's because of moments like this, that the Georgia Tech football program is absolutely heading in the right direction.

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