College football: Biggers makes impact in Ga. Tech’s win at Wake Forest

Published 6:11 am Monday, September 25, 2023


By AARON BEARD AP Sports Writer

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.

*Zeek Biggers (West Rowan) had his biggest impact so far in a Georgia Tech game. He had a career-high nine tackles, a half-sack and a fumble recovery.

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 Biggers.

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.”


Georgia Tech: King looked sharp on his two long scoring throws, which were among four plays of at least 30 yards by Georgia Tech before halftime. The defensive performance complemented that well, helping Georgia Tech overcome 14 penalties for 142 yards.

Wake Forest: It marked the second straight week that Wake Forest fell behind by 17 at halftime. Unlike last weekend at Old Dominion, Wake Forest couldn’t recover, with Clawson saying his team isn’t learning from its mistakes yet.


Griffis struggled to consistently generate chunk plays. In his first year as the fulltime starter after Sam Hartman transferred to Notre Dame, Griffis threw for just 162 yards and a late touchdown to Wesley Grimes that helped Wake Forest hang around late.

Griffis acknowledged he was holding the ball too long in the season opener against Elon, but it’s still happening.

“Right now, it’s a four-week problem,” Clawson said.


This was a matchup of longtime ACC programs that hadn’t played often due to the league’s cross-divisional scheduling rotation that ended after last season. They had played only three times since the Demon Deacons’ 9-6 win in the 2006 ACC championship game, with Georgia Tech winning in 2009, 2010 and the last meeting in 2017.

This was Georgia Tech’s first trip to Winston-Salem since 2010.


Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets step back out of league play to host Bowling Green next Saturday.

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