Paul Johnson called it “a throwback” kind of game. Agreed. If Dublin’s Aviva Stadium were situated just a little bit closer to the Irish Sea, this would’ve been a lovely flounder to throw back.
Maybe Georgia Tech and Boston College didn’t quite kill any chance of American college football growing in Ireland but they combined to at least trample a few seeds Saturday.
One game into the season, however, the Jackets allowed themselves an opportunity to travel back over the pond, comforted by the knowledge of two things: 1) They’re 1-0 in the ACC, which, after going 1-7 in conference play in the United States last year would’ve been a good reason to stay on foreign soil.; 2) They know they have a quarterback, Justin Thomas, who can make something out of nothing.
Thomas, against all odds and laws of physics, completed a 22-yard pass on fourth-and-19 to keep alive a drive that ultimately resulted in Tech’s game-turning touchdown with 35 seconds left. It left Boston College coach Steve Addazio stunned, not so comatose that he couldn’t provide accurate analysis.
“Georgia Tech has their best player playing quarterback,” Addazio said. “Justin Thomas took that game into his own hands at the end. He made unbelievable plays at the very end that were critical, and that’s what great players do.”
Actually, Thomas wasn’t a great player for most of the season opener. He struggled as the primary decision-maker in Tech’s option offense, which was limited to 121 yards rushing. But Thomas had a few timely great moments, and in this game only a few great moments was going to decide it.
There were two and a half minutes remaining and the Jackets trailed 14-10 and staring at a loss to a team that went 0-8 in the conference last season, even with the nation’s best overall defense (and No. 2 vs. the run). Laboring from the Jackets’ 32-yard line, Thomas connected with Qua Searcy between defenders on the fourth-and-a-furlong. Two incompletions later, he found Ricky Jeune for 26-yard gain on third-and-10 at the Boston College 20.
There was now only 1:31 left. But the rest seemed easy.
Thomas ran for eight yards
Thomas ran for six yards.
Freshman B-back Dedrick Mills took it from there. Two carries later, he was in the end zone with 35 seconds left, and Tech was soon celebrating a 17-14 lead.
The Jackets’ players and coaches all but ran through the Dublin rain and chill, out the stadium tunnel and into the evening for their charter flight before the football gods changed their mind.
Thomas called the game “probably one of the craziest ones I’ve been in, and I’ve been in quite a few. It felt like a movie.”
Yeah. A movie where you leave the theater thinking, “That would never happen.”
“I think truthfully last year if some of the stuff that happened today happened (last season), we probably would not have finished the game and just let our guard down.”
Johnson agreed with his quarterback: “It would’ve been easy on fourth-and-(19) to hang your head and go, ‘Uh-oh.’”
That counts for something. But amid preseason hope and expectations that Tech, healthier at running back and presumably better on the offensive line, would be superior offensively to the 2015 team, there’s now some uncertainty.
Tech didn’t surpass 100 yards rushing until the fourth quarter — dreadful for an option attack.
The Jackets drove to a touchdown on their opening possession but then failed to get a first down on five of their next six drives (excluding a late first-half possession when they ran out the clock). They moved the ball effectively on a drive in the third quarter but Mills fumbled at the Boston College 29.
“I don’t think he fumbled all camp,” Johnson said.
It was that kind of game.
“They were really physical up front and I don’t know that we got two reads right on the option, and it’s almost like when we got the read right guys were falling down,” he said. “It was just kind of a calamity.”
It helps to be playing Boston College in games like this. The Eagles find ways to lose. They committed three turnovers. They missed two field goals (one blocked). They failed to come away with points on two red-zone possessions.
Georgia Tech’s defense looked good. But both team’s offenses had a tie-our-shoes-together aspect to them.
It was the passing game that saved it for Tech in the end.
Welcome to the theater of the weird.
B.C. was sitting in a “Cover 2” (zone) defense. “I saw what they did the first time (previous play) and they lined up the same way,” Thomas said. “I was just hoping (Searcy) was looking and he did.”
“It was bad weather — I just wanted to make sure I would catch the ball,” Searcy said.
What were his thoughts just before the fourth-and-19 play?
“That we just needed something from the man above.”
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