The post-Justin Thomas era at Georgia Tech, shrouded in a close-the-airport kind of fog, gained some startling clarity Monday night.
Tech and Paul Johnson opted to go with the Marshall Plan. It worked.
As in TaQuon Marshall, the junior from Hamilton, Ga., who began his days at Tech as first an A-back. Then a quarterback entrusted to throw but a single pass (a completion) as a sophomore. Then the man sent out for his first start Monday with Thomas moved on, before an audience of 75,107 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Many of them unfriendlies. Many of them emboldened by drink.
All Marshall did with this opportunity was run for 249 yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries. The only time Tennessee stopped him all night was on an overtime two-point conversion that cost the Yellow Jackets a 42-41 loss.
With his third possession as a starter – the nerves settled – Marshall and the Yellow Jackets offense began a roll that lasted the rest of the night. He completed his first pass of 2017, a 44-yard catch and run by Ricky Jeune that teased the fingertips of a Volunteer safety. With six seconds left in the first quarter Marshall finished off an 86-yard touchdown drive with a 1-yard plunge.
Let the record show Marshall’s first collegiate incompletion came with 10:47 left in the second quarter. Followed immediately by his first fumble, which the Vols redeemed for a 46-yard scoring drive to tie the score 7-7.
But Marshall seemed to gain comfort and confidence with every snap. How about piling up 655 yards on Tennessee? How about a time of possession advantage of 56:27-18.33?
The other junior quarterback that some had measured for this starting job, Matthew Jordan, saw the field for two plays after the starter was shaken up. Otherwise, this was Marshall’s day, all the way, in every way but the final score.
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