BOSTON — After surviving three fumbles in the first half, Georgia Tech knew a big play of its own could quickly turn things around in the second.
"A couple of times when we called the play, we thought, ‘This is going to be it,’" quarterback Josh Nesbitt said after leading Georgia Tech to a 19-16 victory over Boston College on Saturday. "It only takes one play to score."
Jonathan Dwyer scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 43-yard, fourth-quarter run, rushing for 108 yards as the Yellow Jackets came back from a turnover-filled first half to beat BC. Nesbitt ran for 50 yards, including a 30-yard scramble for a first down that helped Tech run out the clock and a 1-yard sneak on fourth-and-inches to clinch it.
"Our quarterback played well for us, once we stopped turning the ball over," said Paul Johnson, who is the first Georgia Tech coach ever to win in his first Atlantic Coast Conference game. "I thought he made some great plays today. Some of our best plays were him scrambling, or taking it himself."
Getting the game in before the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna swept through New England, BC took a 16-10 lead when Chris Crane hit Ifeanyi Momah on a tug-of-war touchdown pass with 3:03 left in the third. But Crane was sacked in the end zone by Vance Walker for a safety, and four plays after the free kick Dwyer broke free on a pitch around the right side for the touchdown.
"The problem with this team is, if you miss your assignment on one play, it could go to the house," BC linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "That’s what happened."
Nesbitt completed 6-of-13 passes for 73 yards, and he also ran it in from 1 yard out in the first quarter to give Tech a 7-3 lead.
BC (1-1, 0-1 ACC) gave up its first points and committed its first penalty of the season. The Eagles, who beat Kent State 21-0 last week, held a 9-7 halftime lead thanks to three fumbles by Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) and three field goals by Steve Aponavicius.
But BC, which also missed a field goal attempt in the first half, had three turnovers of its own in the second — two interceptions and a fumble, also by Crane, to go with the safety.
"That’s not just the quarterback," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "That’s all 11 guys."
In his first home game since replacing Matt Ryan at quarterback, Crane completed 18-of-35 passes for 142 yards. Ryan, selected third overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL draft, led the Eagles to an 8-0 start last year as they climbed as high as No. 2 in the national polls.
Crane, a fifth-year senior who waited four years to get off the bench, had a rough start.
He coughed it up on the second play of the second half when he was sacked by linebacker Tony Clark, giving the Yellow Jackets the ball on the BC 29. After a holding penalty, Nesbitt hit Demaryius Thomas for a 19-yard gain on third-and-16.
After a 27-yard field goal by Scott Blair, Tech got the ball back when Michael Johnson batted Crane’s pass into the air and Mario Butler came down with it. Brian Toal’s 5-yard sack knocked Tech back, then Blair put a 48-yard attempt off the right upright.
Crane then led BC on an 11-play, 69-yard drive, scoring from 7 yards out when he threw the ball into the end zone and Momah came up with the ball at the same time as cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels. The officials quickly signaled a BC touchdown that made it 16-10.
But after a 46-yard punt by Blair pinned BC at its own 11, Jeff Smith was tackled for a 4-yard loss and then Crane was sacked for a safety that made it 16-12. After Dwyer gave the Yellow Jackets the lead, BC was stopped on downs at the Tech 34 with 4:08 left.
Nesbitt scrambled for 30 yards on second down to move Tech out of its own territory, then picked up the last inches for the first down that iced it.