In need of an opponent to throw around, Georgia Tech welcomed Bowling Green to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday. In the throes of a three-game losing streak and thwarting themselves with mistake-ridden play, the Yellow Jackets found their footing in a 63-17 win over the Falcons.
Tech (2-3) drove for touchdowns on its first seven drives of the game, not requiring punter Pressley Harvin’s assistance until the fourth quarter. The 4-for-4 first half was the first time that Tech had scored a touchdown on each possession of a half in coach Paul Johnson’s 11-season tenure. On defense, Tech was something less than an unfailing bulwark, giving up 393 yards of offense to a team averaging 330 and permitting the Falcons to convert 11 of 19 third downs. But Tech stopped three of Bowling Green’s final eight possessions with turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
“I think that we played better,” Johnson said. “We didn’t put the ball on the ground, we didn’t turn the ball over, we didn’t have the stupid penalties. It’s like I told our guys – it’s about us. It’s not about who you play most of the time; it’s about you.”
The convincing win was a relief for the Jackets, who were awash in fumbles, penalties and mental errors in losing consecutive games to South Florida, Pittsburgh and No. 3 Clemson to fall to 1-3 for the first time since 2003. The losing streak prompted Johnson to declare that coaches would focus on fundamentals to correct the Jackets’ flawed play and drew the frustration and ire of Tech fans. In response, athletic director Todd Stansbury was led to send an email this week to donors and season-ticket holders asking for their support and characterizing criticism on social media as counterproductive.
It was the third largest margin of victory over an FBS opponent in Johnson’s tenure.
To restore confidence against, admittedly, a team rated by one metric as the 10th worst in FBS, was presumably well worth the $900,000 guarantee paid to Bowling Green (1-4).
“In our heads, we’re supposed to do that,” said linebacker David Curry, who contributed one of the takeaways with an end-zone interception in the fourth quarter. “We’re supposed to go out there and dominate.”
Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who struggled in both the option and pass game in the past three weeks, made the right reads on option plays, pitched the ball cleanly on and was on-target in limited opportunities when firing the ball downfield. Marshall, who had completed 43.9 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions in 57 pass attempts thus far, was 5-for-6 for 160 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Johnson seemed intent to get Marshall going by calling for a pass on Tech’s first offensive play. He answered with a tight, on-target spiral to wide receiver Jalen Camp on a sideline route for a 33-yard pickup.
“I just tried to put the ball in the place where only he could catch it,” Marshall said. “It came up to be a big play, and it kind of got our offense rolling in the first half.”
Tech gave up 10 points on the first three possessions on drives measuring a total of 139 yards as the Falcons’ Air Raid offense produced a string of completions and first downs on quick-hitting routes.
But, benefiting from advantageous field position – Bowling Green started only one drive past its 25-yard line – the Jackets gave up only seven points after that. Even removing the negative yards that the Falcons accrued in two sacks and a 17-yard loss on a mishandled snap, Tech largely was sound in its run defense, with its longest rush permitted going for 14 yards.
The defensive play of the game might have been produced in the fourth quarter by defensive end Anree Saint-Amour, who tracked a pass deflected by defensive end Desmond Branch, caught it at the Bowling Green 3-yard line and ran it in for his first interception and score of his career.
Tech returns to ACC play Friday at Louisville. After stopping a three-game losing streak, the Jackets now will seek to end a seven-game losing streak away from Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“We’ve got to go to Louisville now and win an ACC game on the road and we’re back to even, and we’ll play the last half of the season and see where it goes,” Johnson said.
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