Nov. 14, 2010
By Jon Cooper
In a perfect world, Tevin Washington’s first collegiate start Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium against the University of Miami would have seen him shred the U’s defense with his arm and legs, while leading the Yellow Jackets to victory and filling Tech faithful with a golden optimism about the future with him at the helm.
Needless to say, it’s not a perfect world, as the Hurricanes won the game, 35-10. But Washington’s play was one positive taken from the game.
Head Coach Paul Johnson, whose postgame analysis often consists of “We’ll have to look at the tape,” didn’t feel a need to wait. A look at the stat sheet was enough.
“I thought he played okay,” said Johnson, early in the press conference. “He did some decent things. He ran the offense okay. He can’t make up for 10 other guys. He has to have some help.”
Later on he elaborated.
“There was a lot of good things he did,” he said. “The kid rushed for 122 yards in his first game. [He completed] seven out of 16 for 101 yards. I can tell you, if you’re going to throw it for us you better throw it in a hurry because they get back there really fast.”
Whether Johnson was complementing the Hurricanes’ defense or sending a message about his displeasure to the Jackets’ offensive line is irrelevant. The praise directed toward Washington was sincere.
He said he wasn’t nervous taking the field and stayed cool despite facing a fierce Miami defense, which got to pin its ears back early after being given 14 points to work with a little more than 10 minutes in.
Considering this was supposed to be a learning year, the former three-sport star at Wetumpka High School, in Wetumpka, Ala., has held his own running the Spread Option and filling his predecessor Joshua Nesbitt’s enormous shoes.
Washington had limited exposure in mop-up roles against Jacksonville State last year and against South Carolina State, Virginia and Middle Tennessee State this season, throwing five passes (completing two), while rushing 18 times. In the six-plus quarters since taking over after Nesbitt broke his forearm in the Nov. 4 game at Virginia Tech, he has completed 39.1 percent of his passes (9 of 23 throws, but 7 of 16 against Miami), for 181 yards, with a touchdown pass and only the end-of-game interception against Virginia Tech, while rushing for 167 yards, a solid 5.2 yards per carry.
“I think I did alright,” he said. “I tried to come out and execute the offense as best I could. I just tried to put us in a position to win the game. It’s another positive I can build off of.”
His teammates found plenty of positives in the way the 20-year-old redshirt sophomore handled himself.
“He did great. I’m proud of him,” said redshirt senior DB Dominique Reese. “He gave us an opportunity to win. The defense just didn’t help him as much as he helped us.”
“Tevin’s a great warrior. I see every attribute in him that I see in Josh,” added sophomore tackle Phil Smith. “He didn’t get scared today. He didn’t get scared last week. We could see that in his eyes. I think that’s something that puts a lot of confidence in us when he can see him be confident in what he does. He’s confident because he’s good. He balled out today.”
Washington knew that Nesbitt had his back, as well as his ear. To his credit, the senior QB talked him through things, keeping the kid both mentally into the game and calm despite the mounting pressure to try to get Tech back into the game.
After a first half where he completed just one of four passes, a 32-yard catch-and-run by Orwin Smith, Washington came out of the locker room and led Tech into the end zone on the first drive of the second half. He orchestrated a superb six-play, 76-yard drive, accounting for 68 of the yards, including a 28-yard scramble and 3-for-3 passing. The final completion was a 22-yard scoring aerial, his first career touchdown pass, to Kevin Cone, the redshirt senior’s first career score.
“I thought he carried himself excellent,” said Cone, who admitted that he didn’t hear the play call — originally thinking it was ’69,’ a play that Georgia Tech doesn’t have. “Every time we were in the huddle he was telling us, ‘Let’s go. Let’s pick it up.’ He never gives up fighting. He led us today. We just killed ourselves today making mistakes.”
The Jackets didn’t get into the end zone again, twice turning the ball over in the red zone — once on a dropped pitch by Smith, then on a fumble by Washington, who was stripped at the five, with 15 seconds left.
That inability to score added to the day’s frustration, and showed how much room Washington still has to improve. But that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“He’ll take experience, he’ll look at the positives,” said Johnson. “He made some nice plays and he’ll look at the plays he missed on. I got after him. I got after him on the fourth down play when he checked the toss. But he’ll learn from that.”
Washington can’t wait to continue that learning process heading into the season’s final two games, against Duke and arch-rival Georgia, then, ideally — and depending on Nesbitt’s health — a bowl game.
“I feel like I’ve got a game experience and now I’ve got a game start under my belt,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go next week.”