For the first time in three weeks, Georgia Tech’s triple option finally looked like Tech’s triple option. Coach Paul Johnson threw in the right wrinkles, made the right calls and his players did their parts while facing coordinator Bud Foster’s Virginia Tech defense.
When the final buzzer sounded Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium, quarterback TaQuon Marshall, B-back KirVonte Benson, the countless A-backs and wide receivers and Johnson all had smiles on their faces. Not only because the Yellow Jackets came up with a 28-22 upset victory over No. 17 Virginia Tech for their fifth win of the season, which got them one step closer to bowl eligibility.
They were excited because the triple option was in rhythm.
Johnson said execution was the difference Saturday for the offense, which racked up 401 total yards, including 261 on the ground against the No. 1 defense in the ACC, and ended a two-game losing streak.
“I don’t think we had quite as many missed assignments and things,” Johnson said. “We started out that way, we had two on the first three plays, but we settled down and didn’t have as many missed assignments.”
In a loss to Virginia last week and Clemson to week before, the Yellow Jackets’ offense was inconsistent. Against the Tigers, the Jackets posted a season low in yards as they faced a superior athletic defense. Against the Cavaliers, Tech struggled to move the football outside of a couple of big plays, but took advantage of good field position.
While Tech used some big plays in Saturday’s win, it showed more signs that its offense has worked out its kinks.
“I felt like coach Johnson had a great game plan, made some great calls,” Marshall said.
Johnson’s “great” play-calling started on the first play of the game. He dialed up a long pass down the seam to wide receiver Ricky Jeune. It fell just beyond his fingertips, but it wouldn’t be the last time Johnson would dial that play up.
He came back to it with the Jackets trailing 22-21 midway through the fourth quarter. This time, Marshall’s pass was right on target and Jeune dashed away for an 80-yard touchdown. Marshall’s only other completion of the game was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Brad Stewart – his first career touchdown.
The Jackets tried deep passes in recent games, but much like the rest of the offense, the success just wasn’t there.
“It’s just football,” Stewart said. “Sometimes it goes your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. I think coach Johnson does a good job week to week, scheme-wise. But, at the end of the day you are playing football, and if our offense can confuse them enough, you’ll get some opportunities like that.”
The opportunities came in the run game too. In the first quarter, Johnson dialed up a counter play to A-back Nathan Cottrell, which went for 69 yards and set up Tech’s first touchdown.
The offense sustained lengthy drives on the ground also – a trait Johnson’s triple option is known for. The Jackets had two drives of at least 11 plays Saturday. In the last two weeks, Georgia Tech had just one such drive. Benson kept the Jackets moving the chains with an average of 3.9 yards per carry, while Marshall added 2.9 yards per carry.