Georgia Tech used a plethora of explosive plays on Saturday to coast to a 38-7 win over Vanderbilt.
Coming into week three, only three teams in college football had two passing plays of 70-plus yards. The Yellow Jackets had two just against the Commodores.
"Good win, we hit some big plays," head coach Paul Johnson said. "When we didn't stop ourself, we were pretty efficient offensively. I think we have a chance to be pretty good offensively, I said that last week ... if we'd quit shooting ourselves (in the foot). I know we're better at B-Back than we've been, but the teams have chosen to take that out of the offense. You can take that out if you want, but you're going to open up other things. When Justin plays like he did today, we're gonna be pretty good."
The first one happened as fans still rushed in to find their seats. After the opening kickoff was returned to the 19-yard line, Justin Thomas faked a rocket toss to the right sideline and spun to his left for a pass. Marcus Marshall ran a wheel route toward the left sideline and found himself wide open as Thomas' pass floated perfectly into his hands. Marshall sprinted downfield and rumbled all the way into the end zone thanks to some beautiful blocks for an 81-yard touchdown catch.
Vanderbilt quickly answered. The Commodores executed an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took more than five minutes off of the clock. Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur found Kalija Lipscomb for an easy 10-yard strike to tie the game at 7-apiece. The Yellow Jackets' defense showcased the same soft zone coverage and conservative play calling that had many unhappy after last week's victory.
That would prove to change.
The Commodores failed to put any more points on the board after the 9:20 mark in the first quarter. Ted Roof brought more blitzes than in recent weeks, and the Tech defensive backs seemed to play much more press coverage. Shurmur faced pressure on multiple third down plays as Vandy went just 4-for-13 on third downs. Vanderbilt's star running back Ralph Webb gained just 69 yards on 18 carries. Tech's front seven generated a lot of push, and the linebackers prevented Webb from getting into open space where he's tough to bring down.
"We geared up to stop the run," Johnson said. "We held them under 100 yards rushing, so that's pretty good."
Dedrick Mills finished off the next three Georgia Tech touchdown drives with scores of 15, 4, and 5 yards. The true freshman B-Back showed his aggressive running style by carrying multiple defenders into the end zone with him on two of the scores. After being suspended for last week's game by the coaching staff, Mills showed his eagerness to get back on the field and show the immense talent that so many are excited about. He finished with 60 yards on the ground.
"Sitting out last week made me think a lot about hurting my team last week, we could've put more points on the board," Mills said. "This week coming into the game, I had to do what I had to do ... minor setback for a major comeback."
The final score of the game came in the fourth quarter -- when many of Tech's backups had taken the field. From their own 23-yard line, Matthew Jordan dropped back for a rare pass and delivered a dime to Clinton Lynch. Bringing in the catch in stride, Lynch displayed his speed and sprinted past the Vandy defense for a 77-yard touchdown catch. It wasn't the only big play for Lynch, who turned his five touches into 164 total yards. He narrowly missed two touchdowns last week by stepping out of bounds, but Lynch displayed powerful and elusive running on the edge in a strong effort on Saturday.
"(Scoring) was great," Lynch said. "I told everybody that I owed them two scores, but I'm thankful for my one. There's nothing I can about last week. All I can do is look forward."
With 289 yards rushing and 222 yards passing, the Tech offense showed a balanced attack that could be lethal for opponents this season. With a three-game sample, the pass blocking has proven to be much improved, and the passing game in general has been very efficient. Although Vanderbilt may be one of the weakest teams in the SEC, a dominant victory to get to 3-0 was much needed with Clemson coming into town on Thursday night. With many ranked teams struggling with far inferior opponents, Georgia Tech has taken care of business without much trouble the past two weeks to get to 3-0.
Notes and Opinions
- Justin Thomas. That's all I need to say. The senior quarterback was in top form on Saturday afternoon. More than at any point in 2015, Thomas seemed to be in sync with his running backs, and the pitches and reads showed it. Thomas' pitches came at the perfect time to draw defenders in while allowing the backs the get out in space. When Thomas decided to keep it, he got downfield in a hurry and displayed the unreal elusiveness we've seen so much before. The passing has possibly been the most impressive. With more time in the pocket giving him confidence, Thomas has delivered accurate pass after accurate pass so far this season. He has a very good connection and trust going with his receivers, and especially with Qua Searcy. It's all very encouraging for the offense. Even in the postgame press conference, Justin Thomas seems to have his swagger back, folks.
- This could be an explosive offense, and Paul Johnson thinks so, too. There are a ton of playmakers on offense in the backfield, and everyone molds together perfectly. On the outside, Ricky Jeune provide good blocking and big bodies to give Thomas trustable targets for possession catches. On the inside, Mills and Marshall provide a nice one-two punch of power and big play ability. At A-Back, Searcy, JJ Green, and Lynch have already shown what they can do in the open field. And last but not least -- under center is the experience senior quarterback who can bring it all together and run it in perfect unison. Most importantly, the offensive line has progressively gotten better each game, and Freddie Burden has been an absolute bully in the middle, knocking over everything in his way. Another note, Mikell Lands-Davis has been landing some big time blocks on the outside, and a ton of credit should go his way for some of the big plays on Saturday.
- Don't be satisfied with the defense yet. Though they held Vandy to just seven points and have allowed only 31 in three games, there are still some major causes for concern for the unit as a whole. The pass rush was much better on Saturday, and the run defense has looked pretty good for most of the season, but the inability to get off the field has been a problem. Johnson has expressed his dissatisfaction with the time of possession and amount of plays ran the last two weeks due to the defense not getting enough stops. The coverage has left plenty to be desired. It's still to be seen how much of the issue is scheme and how much is talent, but there has been way too much open space up the middle for passing. I'm leaning toward scheme and coaching. With a dynamic offense coming to Atlanta on Thursday, my optimism is limited in the defense containing Watson and co.