Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt runs into the endzone to score the game winning touchdown in overtime against Wake Forest on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
ATLANTA -- Paul Johnson has never been afraid to go for it in a fourth-down situation practically anywhere on the field.
Yet, after coming up short four previous tries on fourth down, Georgia Tech fans can be forgiven in they were a little uneasy Saturday as the Yellow Jackets lined up on fourth and less than a yard trailing underdog Wake Forest by three points in overtime.
Johnson and the Jackets were unfazed, however, and with an opportunity to enhance not only their ACC Coastal Division championship title hopes and their national reputation on the line, Josh Nesbitt did not waver.
First, he picked up the needed distance for the first down, and then tip-toed into the end zone from 3 yards out to lift Tech to a 30-27 victory before 51,415 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"No," said Johnson said when asked after game if there was any hesitation about going for the criticial fourth-down play. "You have to play the game. The kids have played hard. If we can't get a half-yard there, we probably don't deserve to win.
"The ball's on the (4) and a half-yard line. You just give them a chance to win the ball game. ... You just make a decision and you live with it. It's what you've got to do. ... You've got to play to win."
That's exactly what Nesbitt had in mind despite struggling much of the game with just 54 yards rushing on 21 carries and 51 yards on 4-of-14 passing with an interception.
"Before (Johnson) said it, I came off the field saying, 'We can get it,'" said Nesbitt, who added a 12-yard TD that briefly gave Tech a 24-17 lead with 8:19 to play in regulation. "He's a go-getter. It's great to play for a coach like that. We missed a couple of chances, but thank the Lord, we got another one."
And the Jackets, who entered the game 9 of 12 (75 percent) on fourth-down attempts, cashed in on it.
Both teams had chances to break a 24-24 tie late in the regulation, but couldn't put the decisive points on the board.
Tech had the first chance, driving as deep as the Wake 30, but was stopped for the fourth time on fourth down, giving the Demon Deacons possession on their own 41 with 1:50 left in regulation.
Two first downs later, Wake had the ball on the Tech 35, but a Derrick Morgan sack forced the Deacons to punt.
And after taking possession on their own 3 with 58 seconds left, the Jackets elected to run out the clock and play for overtime.
Jimmy Newman gave Wake a 27-24 lead with a 34-yard field goal after Tech stopped the Deacons on three plays.
The Jackets responded by picking up a first down, but were stopped short at the Wake 5 on third and 6, setting up the game-winning sequence.
After a sluggish first half that ended with Wake Forest leading 17-10 and erasing an early 10-0 Tech advantage, it took just four plays into the second half for the Jackets to pull even.
A three-and-out on Wake's opening possession resulted in a punt, and Jonathan Dwyer broke free for a 59-yard touchdown on the next snap, pulling the Jackets even at 17-17 just 1:50 into the third quarter.
Dwyer finished the game with 189 yards on 23 carries to break the career high of 186 that he set in last week's win over Vanderbilt.
"I'm just glad we won the ball game," Dwyer said. "I'm glad we're still in the hunt."
Indeed, the Jackets (9-1, 5-1 in the ACC) can wrap up the Coastal Division title and a trip to the conference championship game in Tampa on Dec. 5 with a win next week at Duke.
They also have a chance to move up from their current spot at No. 10 in the BCS rankings after losses by top 10 teams Iowa, LSU and Oregon on Saturday.
But it was the former that was more on the minds of Johnson and the Jackets after the game.
"We've got the biggest game of the year next week," Johnson said. "That's the way we look at it. We've gotten ourselves in position for the biggest game of the year next week."