Johnson and Oliver each led one touchdown drive alone and shared on drives that resulted in a touchdown and the game-tying field goal.
Tech’s loss to The Citadel was inexcusable. However, the rotation of Johnson and Oliver, if it was a factor, would not seem nearly as significant as other aspects of the Jackets’ play.
Beyond the impact of the eight penalties and the Tech defense’s inability to get off the field, there were a number of failed offensive plays that had little to do with either Johnson or Oliver.
On a third-and-3 on Tech’s opening drive, for instance, a Citadel linebacker had a free run at running back Dontae Smith, who was tackled for a 2-yard loss. It either was the selection of a less-than-optimal play or poor execution, and Tech punted.
A third-quarter run of Oliver’s was limited to a 1-yard gain when the same linebacker, Willie Eubanks, couldn’t be reached on a block. Oliver also had a downfield pass to Davis that was catchable but broken up.
Collins’ comments after the game indicated that he’s quite comfortable proceeding in the same manner.
“These guys are battling to earn playing time, and however much playing time they get is determined upon what they do in their body of work since we’ve been here, and it will continue that way moving forward,” he said.
There might be wisdom in choosing one quarterback and sticking with him. Patenaude has said he would like for one of the quarterbacks to claim the job, but he and Collins clearly are not at that point, and the differing skill sets of the three only complicate the decision.
Oliver’s ability to make plays with his feet may make him a better choice, particularly as he plays in front of an offensive line that, while patched up, has shown that it can run block. But it’s also possible that giving Johnson (and the rest of the offense) time to develop the passing game will pay dividends in the future, particularly considering that Tech may frequently find itself playing from behind this season and also that Johnson is also an effective runner. And it may well be that Graham, who might have the highest ceiling as a dual-threat quarterback but also has the least experience, might be the best choice.
Without Collins and Patenaude having full confidence in one of the three to be the starter, deciding on one of the quarterbacks at this point would have repercussions if the choice proves sub-optimal. (It wouldn’t be difficult, though, to find a Tech fan who would contend that not committing at this point already had repercussions in the form of Saturday’s loss.)
And this all overshadows other issues that the Jackets face, namely the injury-plagued offensive line and a defense that permitted The Citadel to hold the ball for almost 42 minutes of regulation.
Tech faces a number of questions about its team as it prepares for Temple during its open date. Who will be the answer at quarterback is but one.