That play was not the only reason why Searcy sang Marshall’s praises late Friday night following Tech’s 66-31 demolition of Louisville at Cardinal Stadium. After spotty play in Tech’s first four games, in which he was inconsistent with option reads, put pitches on the ground and was making mistakes in the passing game, Marshall seems to have found a groove in the past two games.
“When he’s calm, everyone’s calm and everything is fine,” Searcy said.
After Tech's loss to Clemson in the fourth game, coach Paul Johnson promised that fundamental play at quarterback would improve with his increased involvement. While the level of competition in the past two games has not matched what Marshall experienced in the losses to South Florida, Pittsburgh and Clemson, the difference in him seems clear. Marshall's reads have improved, he has cut sharply downfield on keepers and, after Tech had fumbled 14 times in four games, the Jackets have had only two such miscues in the past two games.
“I’m having a good time,” Marshall said. “Two good games, back to back. I think this is the best I’ve played all season. It’s good to be back, to have fun while you’re playing.”
“That’s the way he should play,” Johnson said. “He’s a senior quarterback that’s played. In the last two games, he’s been dialed in and really good.”
Beyond working on Marshall’s technical play, Johnson also has addressed his quarterback’s psyche, reminding him to have fun.
“I think early on, sometimes maybe he was trying to do too much,” Johnson said. “Let it come to you, let it happen.”
Johnson was in Marshall’s ear early during a timeout Friday. On Tech’s first play, the Jackets lined up in the wrong formation and Marshall misread his receiver, throwing way off target, a mistake he had made previously.
“And he got frustrated with himself, and I said, ‘Dude, we made the first down. Just relax. Just play,’” Johnson said. “And so when he gets in that groove, he’s a really good player.”
With Louisville showing a variety of fronts, Marshall frequently checked the offense out of one play into another. That included the switch on the goal line to the toss to Searcy, which Marshall said was prompted by “a weird feeling” about the situation.
“I didn’t really expect it myself,” Marshall said. “I know we got to the sideline, guys were like, ‘Man, you must have been playing Madden or something.’”
Besides the checks, he executed the option effectively. He ran the ball with his combination of burst and toughness, gaining 175 rushing yards (the second highest total of his career) and scoring two touchdowns in a little less than three quarters of play.
“Our quarterback was playing well and he was doing a nice job getting us in the right plays against the right fronts, and the kids played hard and executed,” Johnson said.
The challenge increases considerably Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Duke gave Marshall and Tech trouble last year in a 43-20 Blue Devils win. Virginia Tech follows after that. Marshall’s intention: Just play.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do the past couple weeks,” Marshall said. “I’m going to try to do the same thing next week, see what happens.”
More from Friday’s game:
Steve Hummer: All Tech does is score, and gallop past Louisville
Georgia Tech supremely bad at coin toss