Justin Thomas finishes strong in starting debut

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas had his foot on the accelerator.

On three consecutive plays in the second quarter, Thomas had open targets in A-back Charles Perkins, receiver DeAndre Smelter and A-back Tony Zenon, but overthrew each of them.

Had he been more accurate, Thomas said, “that could have been the difference in the first half.”

It could have been, but those passes were also his last incompletions of Georgia Tech’s 38-19 win over Wofford on Saturday.

Thomas completed his final seven passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. He heeded a halftime message from coach Paul Johnson to calm down.

Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook “said the same thing,” Thomas said. “Calm down, get your reads down and just throw the ball like we know you can.”

The offense took off with him. Georgia Tech was averaging 5.9 yards per play at the time of Thomas’ final incompletion, which ended the Jackets’ fourth possession.

Tech averaged 11.2 yards per play the rest of the game.

In the final five possessions, not counting the game-ending kneel-down, the Jackets scored 31 points.

Thomas was 11-for-15 for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He ran 13 times for 71 yards.

“He settled down a little bit,” Johnson said. “He had a shaky first half, not only in the passing game but in some reads on the option game. I thought in the second half he settled down.”

One of his biggest plays was converting fourth-and-5 with a pass to Zenon for 22 yards on the opening drive of the second half.

“I (acted) like it was first down,” Thomas said. “I just made the completion and we kept moving on from there.”

On the next play, Thomas completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Smelter on a slant for a 17-9 lead, fitting the ball over a linebacker and into coverage.

“I didn’t want to put too much air on it,” he said. “There was a middle safety. I tried to put it low enough for only (Smelter) to catch it.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.