Nov. 19, 2011
By Jon Cooper
In its three losses at Virginia, Miami and against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech’s offense was lacking big-play capability. They managed only nine plays over 20 yards in those three games combined.
Saturday afternoon, the Jackets created 10 big plays and came away with a 38-31 victory over Duke at Wade Wallace Stadium.
The win gave the Yello Jackets their eighth win of the season and sealed a winning record in ACC play for the third time in four years under Paul Johnson. The former was historic, as no previous Georgia Tech coach had won eight games in three of his first four seasons — an impressive feat for a school that boasts coaching legends John Heisman and Bobby Dodd, and NFL-caliber head coaching talents such as Bobby Ross and Chan Gailey. It also marked the 13th time in Johnson’s 15 years as a head coach that his teams have won at least eight games.
The 10 big plays were the most for the Jackets in a game since the Oct. 17th road-grating of Kansas, yet was something that didn’t appear forthcoming after Tech’s first two series amounted to a pair of three-and-outs, gaining eight total yards and four plays of no gain at all.
After that second possession, the Jackets offense became a unit possessed. They out-gained the Blue Devils, 541-292 (549-351 overall), including 356-57 on the ground (364-101 overall).
“The first two drives, we just didn’t execute very well,” said senior A-Back Roddy Jones, who celebrated his 50th career start by rushing for the tie-breaking touchdown on a one-yard run late in the first quarter that put the Jackets ahead for good. “After that I think guys kind of settled in and just started playing. If we go out and execute we have success and we move the ball and that’s what we started doing after the first two drives.”
Execution meant hitting big plays. On the second play of the third possession, A-Back Embry Peeples broke off a 22-yard run. Two plays later, quarterback Tevin Washington went for 24 of his game-high 136 rushing yards to get into the red zone.
Four plays after that, the Jackets pulled even as David Sims powered in from a yard out. The inspired the defense forced a punt and then the offense once again went big and cashed in.
Washington connected with senior wide receiver Tyler Melton on a 31-yard play. Melton made a spectacular, acrobatic catch on the ball, which actually was under-thrown, putting Tech in business at the Duke 28. Two plays later, Washington rambled 21 yards, setting up first and goal. Two plays after that, Jones put the ball in the end zone, his sixth touchdown of the season and 19th of his career.
“It was just a little toss play and Embry did a good job of blocking the safety that was out there and I was able to get into the end zone,” said Jones of the touchdown that moved him into a tie with Charles Wiley (1995-98), Shawn Jones (1989-92) and Lenny Snow (1965-67) for 15th all-time in school history. “We take pride in blocking for each other and getting each other into the end zone. When multiple guys score it’s always nice for us A-Backs.”
Not only did multiple guys score on Saturday — Jones, Sims, Peeples and Washington each got into the end zone — multiple guys hit for big plays, as six different Jackets — Jones, Peeples, Washington, Melton, Stephen Hill, and Charles Perkins — had plays for more than 20 yards Tech also mixed its big hitters as six came via the rush and four came through the air.
The big plays brought the offense and the team to life, as Tech had at least one on every scoring drive.
The Jackets pulled out to a 28-14 lead at the half and were never tied again, despite Duke twice pulling to within a score in the fourth quarter. But each time the Blue Devils got to within a score, the Jackets responded with another big play.
“When you’re moving the ball in chunks you definitely notice,” said Jones. “It gives your team some energy and it gives your offense a lot of pep. When guys are hitting big plays and it’s multiple guys it’s always fun. [Washington] did a good job distributing the ball today. He threw the ball well. He made some good reads and we did some good blocking and had some great catches, too. When we execute like that it’s pretty good.”