By BOB FERRANTE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Georgia Tech had not won an ACC road game to open a season since 1996, long before everyone on the roster was born. But the Yellow Jackets now have a significant win to build on in Year Two under coach Geoff Collins.
True freshman Jeff Sims, who was once a Florida State commitment, threw for 277 yards and a touchdown as Georgia Tech defeated the Seminoles 16-13 on Saturday night.
Jordan Mason also ran 14 times for 55 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run, as Georgia Tech won its fourth straight regular-season game in the series with Florida State.
“I’m just so proud of the men that are in this organization,” Collins said. “Poured their hearts out.”
Sims completed 24 of 35 passes and had two costly interceptions but he also ran for a team-leading 64 yards and helped guide Georgia Tech to the season-opening win. The Jacksonville, Fla., native backed off his pledge to Florida State just days after Mike Norvell was hired in December 2019.
It was a disappointing start for Norvell, who had won all four of his season openers at Memphis and had energized the fan base after the Seminoles suffered back-to-back losing seasons.
While Sims tossed two first-half interceptions, he helped the Yellow Jackets rally from a 10-0 halftime deficit.
“First half we made a lot of mistakes, I had a lot of mistakes,” Sims said. “We were driving the ball good but couldn’t finish. At halftime we locked in. We told ourselves we have to cut out the silly mistakes, go out there and execute.”
The Yellow Jackets gradually pulled even and Florida State’s James Blackman was sacked and fumbled at the Seminoles’ 15, setting up Georgia Tech with a prime opportunity to go ahead. Jude Kelley had two field-goal attempts and one extra-point attempt blocked, but the freshman connected on the 32-yarder with 8:56 to go for the winning margin.
The Seminoles used defense and special teams to stay in the game but lost a season opener for the fourth straight year. Cornerback Asante Samuel had two interceptions and two pass break-ups for Florida State. Marvin Wilson blocked a pair of field-goal attempts, while Janarius Robinson blocked an extra-point attempt.
Blackman completed 23 of 43 passes for 198 yards but he was largely ineffective after the Seminoles scored a touchdown and a field goal on their first two drives. Blackman connected with Keyshawn Helton for a 3-yard touchdown on Florida State’s opening drive.
The Seminoles had a pair of fourth-down chances on their last two drives but fell short. Blackman looked for Tamorrion Terry on the last fourth-down play with under two minutes left but the pass was into the ground in front of the Seminoles’ top receiver.
“We did good things with the blocked kicks,” Norvell said. “But collectively as a football team we were not consistent enough. We missed out on some opportunities to get them off the field. Had some miscommunication and things that we just absolutely can’t have in all phases. Had some critical penalties, some dropped passes, obviously three turnovers.”
A NEW-LOOK OFFENSE
Jeff Sims’ 24 completions are the most by a Georgia Tech quarterback since Reggie Ball had 27 vs. Duke on Nov. 8, 2003. The Yellow Jackets are making a transition from the option to a spread offense.
The announced attendance was 17,538, with chair-back seating placed in the bleachers around the bowl in an effort to keep fans separated from other groups. Florida State officials had expected between 19,000-20,000, roughly 25 percent of the capacity at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Florida State plays at Miami on Sept. 26.
Georgia Tech plays host to UCF on Saturday.