Article Last Minute Touchdown Saves Georgia Tech

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[figcap]Justin Thomas #5 QB celebrates after game-winning touchdown drive[/figcap][/float_left]
ATLANTA, GA - It was a tale of two halves once again. For the third straight game Georgia Tech (3-0) showed flashes of brilliance along with head-scratching inconsistency. During Saturday's showdown with in-state foe Georgia Southern the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets prevailed, this time using every ounce of a dominant first half to stave off a furious Georgia Southern Eagles rally in the second.

Georgia Tech led at the halftime break 35-10, a half highlighted by 5 touchdown drives in the team's first 5 possessions. The defense matched the offense's dominance by limiting the Eagles to 10 first half points and 130 total yards.

The second half was largely a juxtaposition of the first. The Eagles came out flying high and overcame the 25-point halftime deficit to take the lead at 38-35 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game. Georgia Tech's offense couldn't get anything going and the defense seemingly couldn't keep the Eagles out of the endzone.

Responding to a question about the Georgia Tech's defense in the second half head coach Paul Johnson replied, "We just didn't play assignments. We didn't tackle. We got pushed around. Other than that we were pretty good."

Georgia Tech's offensive penalties, missed tackles, and poor angles combined with Georgia Southern's increased intensity and execution gave the Eagles complete momentum that they seemingly would never relinquish. "We weren't focused in the second half," said linebacker Quayshawn Nealy. "[Georgia Southern] came out ready to go and we came out slacking." According to running back Zach Laskey, "In the second half we laid a dud. We didn't come out with the same intensity that [Georgia Southern] did and they came out and kicked our butts."

All of that changed with just under 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. With the Yellow Jackets trailing by 3 and the Eagles offense rolling, it was Georgia Tech's defense that rose to the occasion when safety Jamal Golden deflected an option pitch for a fumble that was subsequently recovered by the defense.

Originally ruled a forward pass, the Yellow Jackets were benefactors of instant replay and the call was overturned. "I was just praying in my mind that the referee would see the same thing we saw," said defensive end KeShun Freeman. "It was just amazing once the referee confirmed that it was our ball. It was a great feeling."

After a second half in which the Georgia Tech offense stalled, the Yellow Jackets started one final drive with just over 4 minutes remaining in the game and a chance to overcome all of their second half mistakes. Led by a series of Justin Thomas scrambles, some designed and others by way of breakdown, the Jackets marched down field in dramatic fashion.

With 23 seconds to go, Thomas escaped a sack and found running back Deon Hill in stride for a 13-yard touchdown pass that put the Jackets back ahead for good at 41-38. "I knew we had to score," said Thomas. "We could have gotten a field goal and taken it into overtime, but I wanted to get in the end zone on that last drive. I tried to give it everything I had." Thomas finished the game 11 for 24 passing for 188 yards and 4 touchdowns to go along with 20 carries for 148 yards on the ground. It was his first career 100+ yard rushing game.

After two weeks in which Georgia Tech started slowly, the Jackets stressed getting out of the gate strong in week 3 and accomplished that goal. The second half proved there is still plenty of work to be done. With one week to prepare for its ACC opener against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA it's imperative that the Yellow Jackets both start and finish strong to keep its perfect record in tact.

Other news and notes:
  • After opening the game with a 63-yard run down the sideline, senior running back Charles Perkins left the game in the 2nd quarter due to injury and did not return
  • This was the second game of the year in which the Yellow Jackets eclipsed 500 yards of total offense. Unlike the first game against Wofford in which the majority was earned in the second half, the Yellow Jackets earned 385 of their 536 total yards in the first half.
  • Today was the first time Georgia Tech has allowed two 100-yard rushers since their game against Georgia in 2009
  • Wide Receiver DeAndre Smelter went over the 100-yard receiving mark for the second time this year with 4 catches for 106 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Omahri Jarrett, Nathan Cottrell, Trent Sellers, Brad Morgan, and Scott Morgan were among the recruits that attended today's game
 
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