In a thrilling showdown at Raymond James Stadium on Friday evening, Georgia Tech mounted a remarkable comeback to secure a 30-17 triumph over the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the 2023 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl.
The Yellow Jackets' victory marked a significant milestone, as it secured their first bowl win since 2016 and propelled them to finish the season with a winning record for the first time since 2018. The win was a testament to Georgia Tech's resilience and determination as they overcame an early 14-0 deficit to dominate UCF in the latter half of the game.
Despite a challenging start that saw UCF take a commanding 14-0 lead, Georgia Tech rallied back with a display of offensive prowess and defensive resilience. Quarterback Haynes King led the charge, orchestrating a crucial seven-play, 74-yard drive culminating in a 5-yard touchdown run, narrowing the gap to 17-10.
The momentum shift continued as Georgia Tech's defense stepped up, forcing a pivotal three-and-out on UCF's next possession. The Yellow Jackets capitalized on the opportunity,
orchestrating a six-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 41-yard touchdown pass from King to Malik Rutherford. Heading into halftime tied at 17-17, Georgia Tech had successfully erased UCF's early advantage.
The second half belonged entirely to Georgia Tech, with the Jackets scoring on three of their first four possessions. They demonstrated physical dominance, running the ball on 23 consecutive plays to close the game, securing a commanding 30-17 victory. The time of possession in the second half reflected Tech's control, with a 19:30-10:30 advantage over a worn-down UCF.
Jamal Haynes emerged as the star of the night, rushing for a career-high 128 yards on 18 carries and earning the well-deserved title of the 2023 Gasparilla Bowl Most Valuable Player. Haynes' outstanding performance included a 5-yard touchdown run, contributing significantly to Georgia Tech's offensive resurgence.
Defensively, Kyle Efford showcased his talent, leading the Yellow Jackets with nine tackles and becoming the first freshman to lead Tech in tackles for a season since 2000. Ahmari Harvey's interception in the fourth quarter sealed the victory, capping off a stellar defensive effort.
With this triumph, Georgia Tech secured its first winning season since 2018 and moved into a tie for 10th place all-time with 26 bowl victories alongside Clemson, Nebraska, and Ohio State. The Yellow Jackets' resilience in overcoming a 14-point deficit marked a historic moment, establishing a new record for the largest comeback in a bowl victory.
Quarterback Haynes King's outstanding season was highlighted, setting records for Georgia Tech in touchdown passes, passing yards, and total offense. The win marked Georgia Tech's third in its last four bowl games, concluding the season on a high note and setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting future for Yellow Jackets football.
This is Dez Barnes of Pretty Girls Love Sports, a journalist on the MTMV Sports platform. She is a retired US Army veteran, professional cheerleader, pet mom, and avid sports lover. Feel free to follow her writings as she dives into the latest sports news! You can find her on all social media channels @PGLOVESPORTS.