Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 11, 2018 at 9:04 pm.

Yellow Jackets still looking for formula for strong finishes

Throughout the offseason the Georgia Tech staff has talked about finishing strong. But the Yellow Jackets were unable to cross the line again on Saturday and wound up with a 49-38 loss to South Florida. They’ll get another chance this week in their ACC opener on the road against Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech had a 10-point lead with 14:15 left in the game and failed to close the deal. This time the Yellow Jackets allowed South Florida to score the final 21 points of the game. It was the fourth time in the last two seasons that Georgia Tech has lost a game it led by two scores in the second half.

“You’ve got to close out the games,” coach Paul Johnson said.

“It should come with experience and knowing, especially for this team the way it’s happened in the last two years. I mean, you’ve got to close them out. Whether that’s on the offense continuing to score or on defense getting a stop, but you’ve got to close them out.”

In a game filled with big plays, the most pivotal came with 7:47 remaining. Holding a 38-35 lead, Georgia Tech drove the ball to the South Florida 19, seemingly on its way to what should have been the insurance score.

The pitch went to normally dependable Qua Searcy, who had the first down and was stretching for extra yardage when Bentlee Sanders stripped him of the ball. South Florida’s Nico Sawtelle recovered at the 12 to give the Bulls new life.

“We had a chance to win the game,” Johnson said. “All we’ve got to do is make it and we’re going back up 10 again. Got to hold onto the ball.”

South Florida clinched the victory when Nico Sawtelle intercepted TaQuon Marshall’s pass with 3:47. That set up an insurance touchdown, a 5-yard run by Barnett, with 2:13 left.

“We just had a hiccup with that fumble,” Marshall said. “If we don’t fumble, we go down and score and we’re having a totally different conversation. It’s just how the game goes.”