Here are the grades for Georgia Tech in its 42-41 double-overtime defeat to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game Monday night in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Run offense: Starting with its third drive of the game, Georgia Tech took control of the game with strong interior running from B-back KirVonte Benson and the deft playmaking of quarterback TaQuon Marshall. Starting with their fifth possession of the game, Tech dared Tennessee to stop its run game, running 34 consecutive times in the second and third quarters, gaining 265 yards over that span. Tech cleared 500 rushing yards, its first game against a power-conference opponent with 400-plus yards since the Orange Bowl win over Mississippi State in 2014. In his first career start, Marshall set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 249 yards, scoring five touchdowns, two in overtime. Also making his first career start, Benson added 124. However, Tech lost two fumbles (Marshall and J.J. Green), both of which were cashed in for touchdowns. Grade: A-
Pass offense: Tech didn’t go to the air much, throwing just 10 times out of 96 plays. But the Jackets made one of the big plays of the game through the air, extending their first scoring drive with a 44-yard pass play from Marshall to wide receiver Ricky Jeune on a 3rd-and-12 after a botched pitch by Marshall to A-back Qua Searcy on second down. Marshall converted another third down on the next possession, throwing out of a well-formed pocket to Stewart for a 15-yard gain on a 3rd-and-7. Marshall was 5-for-9 for 120 yards. Grade: A
Run defense: A big concern for Tech coming into the game was its ability to stop running back John Kelly, which proved valid. The Volunteers gained 148 yards on 22 attempts, led by Kelly’s 128. Tennessee often won the battle up front to clear lanes. However, the Volunteers didn’t run as often as might have seemed wise. Only 17 out of their 53 plays in regulation were runs. Grade: C-
Pass defense: The Jackets ranked 126th out of 128 FBS teams in third-down efficiency (49.2 percent) last year, but held Tennessee to 5-for-12. Defensive end Antonio Simmons brought pressure off the edge, and defensive backs, namely Lawrence Austin, were effective in tackling receivers in front of the first-down marker. Tech benefited from a number of drops by Tennessee wide receivers and also from the first-half injury to Jauan Jennings, who did not return to the game with an apparent wrist injury. However, Volunteers quarterback Quinten Dormady brought Tennessee back in the second half, completing touchdown passes to wide receiver Marquez Callaway for 10 and 50 yards. Also, Tech failed to record a sack despite 37 pass attempts by Dormady, continuing a problem from last season. Grade: C+
Special teams: Tennessee’s kicking game outplayed Tech’s. Most critically, walk-on kicker Shawn Davis missed two field-goal tries, from 47 and 37 yards, the latter of which could have been the game-winner at the end of regulation. Davis beat out freshman Brenton King to succeed Tech’s all-time leading scorer Harrison Butker. The Jackets started seven drives at their 20 or inside on punts and kickoffs. Tennessee, meanwhile, brought kickoffs out to its 40 and Tech’s 45, though neither resulted in points. Grade: D
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