Georgia Tech used an array of explosive plays on Saturday to take down Georgia Southern, 35-24, at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The two teams combined for 772 yards of total offense, but the Eagles defense was unable to limit the big plays from Tech despite controlling the time of possession.
The Jackets first 11 plays went for 216 total yards and three touchdowns in three drives.
Southern’s defense found some success in the middle quarters, holding Tech to just 75 yards on its next 20 plays before the Jackets put together their finishing punch.
Leading by 11 points midway into the fourth quarter, the Georgia Tech offense put together a prototypical death march drive to put the dagger into Georgia Southern. The Jackets ran nine plays, all runs, to take 5:30 off the clock. Five of the nine runs were b-back dives, and Dedrick Mills took the last handoff 20 yards for a touchdown to put Tech ahead 35-17.
“Anytime you win a game, that’s a real positive,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I was proud of our guys. I thought while we didn’t play perfect, we made enough plays to win.”
In a textbook start for the Georgia Tech offense, the Jackets needed just three plays to get on the board. Running the triple option to the right sideline, quarterback Justin Thomas tricked a Georgia Southern defensive back with a fake pitch and displayed his track speed with a 75-yard touchdown run.
Thomas finished the game 78 yards rushing, 172 yards passing and three total touchdowns.
“It’s just amazing ... he is one of a kind,” Tech center Freddie Burden said about Thomas. “We know that [Thomas] can make plays in any situation, so we just have to get him free and open so he can make those plays.”
After a quick three-and-out forced by the Tech defense, Thomas and co. bettered their opening drive by one play. On the second play of the possession, Thomas found a-back Clinton Lynch wide open on a seam route. Lynch hauled in the pass and cruised into the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown catch.
Southern answered on its second possession with the style of drive that has plagued the Jackets defense all season. The Eagles capped off an 18-play, 75-yard drive with a fourth-and-goal touchdown run by L.A. Ramsby from the Tech 1-yard line. Southern converted on four third downs on the possession — a trend that continued, as the Eagles went 13-20 on third down in the game.
Tech’s third drive wasn’t quite as quick as the opening two, but the Jackets capitalized on an explosive play for the third time in the first quarter. On a second-and-eight from midfield, Thomas delivered a pitch to b-back Marcus Marshall down the left sideline. Marshall received a few key blocks down the field and sprinted down to the 6-yard line for a 50-yard gain. On the next play, Mills punched it in from six yards for his first touchdown of the day, putting Tech ahead, 21-7.
“We got started well early,” Johnson said. “I really feel like the third-and-13 they converted, if we could have got them off the field there with the momentum we had, we might have buried them right there. But to their credit, the kid scrambled, made the first down, and they hung around and kind of stayed in the game.”
After a scoreless third quarter, the Jackets put together their longest touchdown drive of the game — spanning over two quarters — to take a 28-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. The key play of the drive was a third-and-six conversion from the Tech 14-yard line. Thomas dropped back and found wide receiver Brad Stewart with a back shoulder throw for a 40-yard gain. The Jackets finished the drive with eight consecutive runs, capped off with Thomas’ 4-yard score.
“The big thing in film, coach Buzz [Preston] is always talking about receivers making plays,” Stewart said. “We’re known to be a running offense, but we have to have that passing element to our offense. So whenever our names are called, we have to make a play, and that’s what I did.”
The Eagles came back quickly with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to pull back within 11 points. Southern used a balanced offensive attack with five passes and five runs to keep the Tech defense on its feet. Ramsey scored on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line for his second touchdown of the day.
Southern scored a late touchdown for its third 75-yard touchdown drive in the game to put the final score on the board at 35-24.
“Every win is important,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to win. You can look at the scores today and see it’s hard to win, so any time you get a win, you’ve got to be happy and try to build on it. We sure haven’t played our best football yet on both offense and defense, hopefully that’s in front of us.”
Georgia Tech will enjoy a bye week before welcoming Duke to Bobby Dodd for Homecoming week.