Tech making magic in third quarter

Fans, coaches and players at Duke, Virginia Tech and FSU, to name a few, may beg to differ.

Six times this season, the Yellow Jackets have rushed back out of the tunnel to score on their first possession of the second half.

Georgia knows the feeling all too well after the Yellow Jackets put up 26 points -- four possessions, four scores -- in the third quarter last year. This theme is sure to be revisited when the two teams meet Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the rivals' 104th meeting.

Tech has played in surges this season. The Jackets have outscored opponents by 43 points in the first quarter but just by 16 points in second quarter. Then just when the defense thinks it may have something figured out, the Jackets come back from the locker room and the scoring margin jumps back up to 41 points in the third quarter.

"I don't know why it is, but we've always been able to make some adjustments and help them," Johnson said.

Tech players and assistant coaches can't provide an explanation either, other than halftime gives them a chance to relax, refocus and refine. As quarterbacks coach Brian Bohannon pointed out, there is not a lot of time during the game to make substantial changes.

"When we aren't playing so well in the first half, everyone just comes in and sees what we can do, buckles down and we try to do our jobs," quarterback Josh Nesbitt said.

Typically, Tech's halftimes follow the same routine. Johnson opens the 20-minute break by briefly addressing the team and gives his synopsis on the first half. He then meets with his assistants, defense followed by offense.

Next, they get to the wipe board. Johnson said his favorite thing is drawing up a play and asking the offense why it won't work. Like a good trial lawyer, Johnson already knows the answer. And that is usually when the light bulb goes on for the players.

Seldom are widescale changes made. Johnson said he typically just tweaks a blocking schemes or a coverage scheme. Sometimes, they'll retune certain plays.

The Virginia Tech game is a case in point. The Jackets began blocking a Virginia Tech's safety, rather than a linebacker and suddenly, Virginia Tech couldn't get the ball back. The Jackets dominated second-half time of possession, 22:28 to 7.32.

During the Vanderbilt game, Johnson adjusted a pass route for Embry Peeples, sending his A-Back  straight down the field because Johnson saw the strong safety cheating up to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Peeples ran right by him for an 87-yard touchdown reception.

"It was like two ships passing in the night," Nesbitt said after the game.

Johnson's mastery of his spread-based option offense is what makes him so dangerous, according to ESPN analyst Craig James.

"I think Paul sees the adjustments for a defense quicker than they see his adjustments. So he has a decided advantage when it comes to making that tweak," said James, who served as analyst for Tech's Clemson and Miami games this season.

In Johnson's two seasons at Tech, he has not directed a more poignant third quarter than the 26-point blitz to come back from the 28-12 deficit against Georgia last year.

Johnson typically tries to deflect credit. He said he and his staff didn't do much different between the halves. He said the outburst in Athens was more of a reflection of missed tackles. On Dwyer's 60-yard touchdown run that opened the second half, three Bulldogs missed tackles. Another tackle was missed on Dwyer's 23-yarder later in the quarter.

Assistant Jeff Monken said they don't coach any differently for the second half than in the first. But he's not surprised that Tech's two biggest scoring margins are the first and third quarters. One reason, he says, is because it takes a while for the defense to get used to the speed of the offense. By the time the defense gets adjusted, Tech has made its changes.

Whatever the reason, James knows one job he doesn't want.

"I don't envy coordinators trying to stop Paul because he sees it and makes the adjustment right away," James said.

Georgia Tech's score by quarters this season

Georgia Tech


Second: 107

Third:  84

Fourth: 96

OT:  6

Total: 396


First: 55

Second: 92 

Third:  43 

Fourth: 66 

OT: 3

Total: 259

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