Georgia Tech football’s downward trend in one-possession games

Over the last ten seasons under Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech football has played a combined total of 52 one-possession games. The Yellow Jackets have gone a combined 24-28 in those contests, including a 19-18 record in ACC play. That’s if you count GT’s 2009 ACC Championship Game victory over Clemson, won on the field, as a victory instead of vacated.

But despite an overall ACC winning record on the field in close games under Johnson, recent years’ results do not paint a rosy picture for GT. The Yellow Jackets have struggled in recent years to close out games, particularly against league foes. Georgia Tech is just 6-14 in its last 20 one-possession ACC games going back to the 2012 season.

In 2008, Johnson’s first season in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets went 5-2 in one-possession games, including wins over Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia. It resulted in a Chick-Fil-A Bowl appearance against LSU, though the Jackets were blown out, 38-3, by the Tigers.

The Yellow Jackets also swept Clemson and FSU in 2009, though they lost a one-possession game to Georgia in Atlanta, 30-24. Overall, the ACC Coastal Division champions went 5-0 in ACC one-possession games in ’09, including GT’s 39-34 victory over Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Heading into the Georgia game in the fall of 2010, GT was 12-5 in one-possession games under Johnson. They had quickly become one of the ‘it’ teams in the ACC, and Johnson’s unorthodox offensive approach was gaining national attention. But the slide in close games really began in earnest for the Yellow Jackets the evening of Nov. 27, 2010. That night, Johnson’s club suffered a 42-34 loss to the Bulldogs in Athens’ Sanford Stadium. Georgia Tech dropped its subsequent bowl game in Shreveport against Air Force, 14-7.

Georgia Tech went 3-2 in one-possession games in 2011, upping its ACC one-possession game record under Johnson to 13-4. But the Jackets lost their bowl game, 30-27, to Utah, and then lost all three of their one-possession games in 2012.

The following year, GT dropped a third bowl game in four seasons by eight points or less – a 25-17 decision to Ole Miss in Nashville’s Music City Bowl. The Ole Miss loss dropped GT to 1-3 in one-possession games in 2013. Even more troubling, GT was a combined 6-12 in one-possession games over a four-season stretch from 2010 to 2013.

Order was restored in Atlanta in 2014, as the Yellow Jackets put together a storybook season that resulted in an Orange Bowl victory. Tech picked up key early narrow victories over Georgia Southern and at Virginia Tech, setting the tone. GT later lost close games to Duke and UNC, as well as to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. But a 30-24 win at Georgia, along with an Orange Bowl triumph over Mississippi State, made up for it.

2015 was a disaster for the Yellow Jackets, as Johnson’s club slipped to 3-9, with just a single ACC victory. Seven of Tech’s games came down to one possession, with the Jackets going a combined 1-6 in those contests. Four of GT’s Coastal Division rivals – UNC, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Virginia Tech – beat them by a combined 22 points that fall. As a result, Tech’s seven-year bowl streak was snapped.

The Yellow Jackets returned to the postseason for an eighth time under Johnson in 2016, managing to win three out of four one-possession games. The climax was a 28-27 stunner over Georgia in Athens. But then Tech slid back again this past fall, going 1-3 in close games en route to a 5-6 finish.

In the two seasons under Johnson in which Georgia Tech has failed to reach a bowl – 2015 and 2017 – the Yellow Jackets are a combined 2-9 in one-possession games.

For GT to return to the top of Coastal Division – and for Johnson to solidify his job security – the Yellow Jackets must find a way in the coming years to win the close ones again, as they did earlier in Johnson’s tenure.



Paul Johnson’s Record in One-Possession Games at Georgia Tech (2008-2017)


W @BC 19-16
L @VT 20-17
W Gard-Webb 10-7
W @ Clemson 21-17
L UVa 24-17
W FSU 31-28
W @UGA 45-42

Overall Record: 5-2
Overall ACC Record: 3-2


W Clemson 30-27
W @FSU 49-44
W Virginia Tech 28-23
W Wake Forest 30-27
L UGA 30-24
W Clemson 39-34

Overall Record: 5-1
Overall ACC Record: 5-0 (including ACC Championship Game)

NOTE: 2009 ACC Championship Game win would later be vacated by NCAA


L @Kansas 28-25
W @UNC 30-24
W @Wake Forest 24-20
L @VT 28-21
L @UGA 42-34
L Air Force 14-7

Overall Record: 2-4
Overall ACC Record: 2-1


W UNC 35-28
W Maryland 21-16
L @UVa 24-21
W Duke 38-31
L Utah 30-27

Overall Record: 3-2
Overall ACC Record: 3-1


L @VT 20-17
L Miami 42-36
L Florida State 21-15

Overall Record: 0-3
Overall ACC Record: 0-3 (including ACC championship game)


W UNC 28-20
L VT 17-10
L UGA 41-34
L Ole Miss 25-17

Overall Record: 1-3
Overall ACC Record: 1-1


W Ga Southern 42-38
W @VT 27-24
L Duke 31-25
L @UNC 48-43
W UGA 30-24
L FSU 37-35

Overall Record: 3-3
Overall ACC Record: 1-3


L @Notre Dame 30-22
L UNC 38-31
L Pitt 31-28
W FSU 22-16
L @UVa 27-21
L VT 23-21
L UGA 13-7

Overall Record: 1-6
Overall ACC Record: 1-4


W BC 17-14
L @Pitt 37-34
W Duke 38-35
W UGA 28-27

Overall Record: 3-1
Overall ACC Record: 2-1


L Tennessee 42-41
L @Miami 25-24
L @UVa 40-36
W VT 28-22

Overall Record: 1-3
Overall ACC Record: 1-2


24-28 combined (52 games)
19-18 overall in ACC games (37 games)