Tevin Washington seeks strong finish for Georgia Tech

EL PASO, Texas — After Georgia Tech’s season ends Saturday at the Sun Bowl, quarterback Tevin Washington knows how he’ll push himself and his teammates in the offseason.

“Make sure [that] everything we do, we concentrate on finishing,” he said.

The source of his motivation isn’t difficult to decipher. The Yellow Jackets won their first six games, reaching the No. 12 spot in the polls, before losing four of their final six. In losses to Virginia and Virginia Tech in particular, the Jackets had opportunities in the second half to take control of the games but failed.

“If it’s running [in the offseason], if it’s anything, just make sure we put an emphasis on how we finish it,” he said.

Washington’s case this season would be no different. After a hot start as a passer, Washington showed inconsistency. He completed 64.3 percent of his passes in the first four games, averaging 19.5 yards per attempt and throwing for eight touchdowns against one interception. In the final eight games, against superior competition, he completed 38.7 percent of his passes and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. He had two touchdowns and seven interceptions in that span.

“I think putting an exclamation point on the season would be huge for him and our football team,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said, “to go out and put a good performance up here Saturday against Utah.”

Despite the rough passing numbers over the final eight games, there is much to commend about Washington’s season. He led workouts and set the pace in the offseason, establishing the ethic and attitude for Tech’s 8-4 season. He directed the Jackets’ 31-17 upset win over then-No. 5 Clemson and ran for 176 yards, setting a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He has been an effective option on the goal line and has scored 14 rushing touchdowns, third most in ACC history. His 890 rushing yards lead the team.

Said Bohannon, “If you asked a lot of people [before the season], if you said, ‘Hey, Tevin Washington’s the starting quarterback, we’re going to win eight games and go to the Sun Bowl,’ I think there would have been a lot of people that would have said, ‘I don’t know about that.’”

Bohannon, who can be unsparing in his assessments of his players, raved about Washington’s leadership and work ethic and said he was proud of his performance.

“He’s done a great job of making the most of his abilities,” Bohannon said.

However, Washington has plenty to correct and improve, both against the Utes and going into the offseason. Washington showed impatience in the pocket and fell into a habit of keeping his eyes more on the pass rush than on his receivers. While dropped passes, leaky pass protection and a variety of factors also contributed, those tendencies help explain why Washington completed 20 passes of 20 yards or more in the first six games and nine in the final six.

“He gets in a hurry sometimes,” Bohannon said. “Really, if he’ll just have a little more patience, he’ll be more productive.”

Learning to feel the pass rush as opposed to watching it — focusing on receivers and not on 290-pound linemen bent on destruction — falls in the category of “easier said than done.”

“It’s not easy when people get around you to stay calm, but it’s a challenge,” Washington said, “so it’s something to look forward to working on to get better.”

He’ll likely have opportunities Saturday. Johnson said Tuesday that Utah’s defensive line is as good or better than any line that the Jackets have faced this season.

“I don’t really think I had a best game [this season],” Washington said. “I’ve still got a chance to go out and have my best game Saturday.”

Following the bowl game, Washington will enter into another competition, with backup Synjyn Days and freshman Vad Lee. An offseason with a goal of finishing strong will carry double meaning for Washington as he enters his final season at Tech.

If hard work is the answer, Washington can meet the challenge.

Said Washington, “What’s going to stick out in everyone’s mind is how you finish.”