Video courtesy of ACC Digital Network

ATLANTA, GA – After a surprise bye week due to hurricane Irma, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-0) returned to the field today for their ACC opener against the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-3, 0-1). Coming off a drubbing at home to top 10 Oklahoma State last week, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi brought his Panthers down to Atlanta for more of the same.

Saturday’s contest at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field was largely a one-sided affair that ended with a 35-17 Yellow Jackets victory. If it weren’t for several costly turnovers for the Jackets, four to be exact, the game could have been over before the home crowd danced to the 3rd quarter Budweiser bop.

“Offensively we looked like we hadn’t played in two weeks,” said Tech head coach Paul Johnson. “It was sloppy. I think all four turnovers came from the same position which is disappointing. We got to clean that up because against a good team, we won’t be able to survive.”

The reason for Tech’s survival? The defense.

The Yellow Jackets defense took full advantage of two weeks off. After allowing a first possession touchdown to the Panthers, the defense responded for the near entirety of the game. One quick look at the box score says it all.

  • The Jackets defense allowed 11 first downs for the game.
  • The Jackets defense allowed the Panthers to convert just one 3rd down attempts on 13 tries.
  • The Jackets defense allowed 235 yards total on the game, 79 of which came on the Panthers final two drives of the game with the game already iced and several 2nd team Tech defenders seeing their first action.

The Jackets defense was disruptive from the 2nd possession on, notching three sacks, 7 tackles for a loss and countless quarterback hurries.

“The defense played great,” said quarterback TaQuon Marshall. “If it weren’t for the defense, I don’t think we would’ve won the game, honestly. We had four turnovers, the defense went out and got the ball back.”

Running back KirVonte Benson concurred, “The defense played amazing. Like [TaQuon] said, I think we wouldn’t have come out with the W if it weren’t for the defense.”

It was largely a team effort from the defense with several guys stepping up throughout. Senior defensive ends KeShun Freeman and Antonio Simmons anchored a salty defensive effort with two tackles for loss apiece.

Said Freeman, “This is one of the better performances that we’ve had since I’ve been here. I’m proud of [the team]. People being in the right places at the right time, fitting in the right gaps, the defensive front getting some great production with sacks and tackles for a loss. I’m excited to see how we grow these next few games.”

Provided the defense continues this level of production, the next few games are sure to be exciting for the team and fans alike. Up next for Georgia Tech is a visit from North Carolina. While the Jackets snapped a two-game losing streak to Pittsburgh today, they have the opportunity to snap a three-game variety against the Tar Heels next Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

As for the Panthers? Head coach Pat Narduzzi may want to start worrying about his own team.

Other news and notes

  • Quarterback TaQuon Marshall added two more touchdowns to his resume. He now has eight on the season, good for seventh-most all-time by a quarterback in Georgia Tech single-season history after just three games.
  • Running back KirVonte Benson’s 196 yards is the most ever by a B-Back in head coach Paul Johnson’s 10 seasons with Georgia Tech.
  • Georgia Tech’s defense forced seven three-and-outs on 14 Pittsburgh drives.
  • Georgia Tech is now 8-2 in ACC openers under Paul Johnson.
Video courtesy of ACC Digital Network

ATLANTA, GA – Just five days after playing 96 snaps, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets offense came out with predictably tired legs for Saturday’s tilt against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (1-1).

Unlike your ordinary FCS foe, the Gamecocks visited Bobby Dodd Stadium with a bevy of FBS talent by way of transfer. With those weapons in tow, the Gamecocks took advantage of Tech’s sloppy start littered with slow developing plays and mental errors.

“Offensively, it was not pretty,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “We were able to make some plays, but the execution was not very good. We got our butts whipped up front.”

With under 2 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter, the Gamecocks held the ball at midfield, poised to take a 7-3 lead at minimum into the locker room. That’s when Jackets’ defensive back Lawrence Austin made his presence known.

With the Jackets falling back into zone at the snap on 1st and 10, Austin made a beeline to the field side flats. Watching the Gamecocks quarterback’s eyes, Austin jumped in front of a curl route and snagged Tech’s first turnover of the game and season. He returned the ball to the opposing 32-yard line in what was without question the play of the first half, and perhaps the game, for the Yellow Jackets.

“I saw a sprint out,” said Austin. “So when I see a sprint out I run to [responsibility] #1. The [defensive] line got a great pressure, so it made it easy for me. He just threw it right to me.”

Two plays later, the Jackets’ offense capitalized. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall found wide receiver Ricky Jeune in the back right corner of the end zone, and Jeune fended off a pesky Gamecocks’ cornerback for the touchdown catch. In the blink of an eye, Tech jumped back in the lead going into the half.

Said Johnson on Austin’s interception, “I think it changed the first half. We got the interception, and Ricky made a good catch.”

Tech’s defense continued to pull a significant share of the weight the rest of the ballgame. On the Gamecocks’ first two possessions in the 3rd quarter, the Jackets’ defense forced two consecutive turnovers. The first came on a diving interception by defensive back Step Durham, and the second came via a fumble recovery by safety A.J. Gray.

With both turnovers coming inside the Jacksonville State 30 yard line, Tech’s offense capitalized. Marshall again found success through the air with touchdown passes to Jeune (again) and A-Back J.J. Green.

Asked about his success passing, Marshall said, “It felt great. After the first game I kind of wanted to sit in the pocket more and show my arm ability. Ricky and all the other guys made great plays. The line blocked for me, so I had a lot of time to get the ball out of my hands.”

Marshall burst onto the national college football scene by way of 5 touchdown runs in the opener versus Tennessee. Against the Gamecocks on Saturday he added to his impressive Junior season campaign with 3 touchdowns via air and another on the ground. His day ended early in the 4th quarter with an efficient stat line that included 112 yards passing on just 7 attempts.

Despite the slow start offensively, the Jackets rolled in the 2nd half to a 37-10 victory headlined by a stingy defense that turned the ball over 3 times and sacked the Gamecocks quarterback 5 times. Of the 5 sacks, defensive end Anree Saint-Amour and linebacker T.D. Roof contributed 2 apiece.

Today’s game on The Flats marks the team’s first win of the season. It was one that Johnson is happy to take and quickly forget in light of the team’s sluggishness and mistakes.

Said Johnson, “I’m relieved that it’s over.”

Other news and notes:

  • Three true freshmen saw their first game action today (B-Back Jerry Howard, defensive lineman Antwan Owens and defensive back Jaytlin Askew). That makes 7 true freshman who have played so far this year following debuts by linebacker Bruce-Jordan Swilling, linebacker T.D. Roof, linebacker Jaquan Henderson and punter Pressley Harvin on Monday.
  • In the 3rd quarter of today’s game, true freshman Jerry Howard played his first snaps at B-Back. On his second carry of the game, he found the end zone via a 65-yard burst up the gut of the defense. His 65-yard touchdown run is the longest by a true freshman since Jonathan Dwyer in 2007.
  • Quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s 3 touchdown passes (27, 23 and 10 yards) were the most by a Georgia Tech quarterback since Justin Thomas on November 1, 2014 vs. Virginia.
  • Senior cornerback Step Durham’s 3rd quarter interception was the first of his career.