ATLANTA — Last week, James Graham had the worst game of his career as Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback.
This week, he responded with his best and helped the Yellow Jackets end a three-game losing streak.
Graham threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 28-26 win over North Carolina State on Thursday in Atlanta. The win ensured the Yellow Jackets (3-8, 2-6 ACC) would not finish in the cellar in the ACC Coastal Division.
It was night and day from a week ago, when he threw for 43 yards and two interceptions and was relieved in the third quarter of a 45-0 loss to Virginia Tech.
“We don’t really like, as a team, like to point fingers,” Graham said. “It was a collective loss last week. Things happen on both sides of the ball, so we really just came out to practice to improve in every aspect of the game — passing, catching, tackling, you know, just everything. We came out today and tried to clean all that up and obviously you saw the results.”
North Carolina State (4-7, 1-6) made the game closer than it needed to be. The Wolfpack nearly erased an 18-point deficit in the second half and came within a two-point conversion pass of tying the game.
The Wolfpack closed the gap to 28-13 when Christopher Dunn kicked a 29-yard field goal. They narrowed the gap to 28-20 when Larrell Murchison recovered a fumble and scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Devin Leary to Cary Angeline.
N.C. State pulled to with 28-26 with 5:17 remaining when Ricky Person scored on a 1-yard dive. But the two-point conversion pass failed when pressure from Georgia Tech’s Christian Campbell forced Leary’s pass to go long. Georgia Tech took the ensuing kickoff and ran out the clock.
“Coach called safety pressure,” Campbell said. “They did a roll out, so he’s running away from me … he had no idea I was behind him. So as soon as he turned to square up, I was right there in his face.”
Graham set the tone on the game’s first offensive play when he threw a 54-yard pass to Mountain View grad Malachi Carter, and two plays later fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ahmarean Brown.
Graham completed seven of 15 passes for 129 yards and ran 14 times for 112 yards. Jordan Mason carried 22 times for 141 yards.
N.C. State’s offense was led by Leary, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. Zonovan Knight rushed 18 times for 100 yards and one touchdown.
Georgia Tech went ahead 14-0 when Graham found Tobias Oliver, who began the season as the starting quarterback, for a 13-yard touchdown.
N.C. State drove 93 yards to the Georgia Tech 3, but had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Dunn.
The Wolfpack forced Georgia Tech to go three-and-out, but Thayer Thomas fumbled the punt and Jaytlin Askew recovered for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech scored four plays later when Graham found Brown for an 11-yard touchdown for a 21-3 halftime lead.
N.C. State took the second-half kickoff and scored on a 12-play drive that was capped by Knight’s 2-yard run. But the Yellow Jackets answered with a 67-yard drive that culminated with Graham scoring on a 26-yard keeper and led 28-10.
“I think Dave Patenaude and our entire offensive staff deserve a lot of credit for the plan today they put together on a short week against a defense that we had not seen this year,” coach Geoff Collins said.