#TGW: The Early Bird

Sept. 16, 2015

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

With Georgia Tech’s combined margin of victory of 118 points over its first two games and neither game really being in doubt in the second half, the Yellow Jackets have been able to get a look at a lot of players and see a lot of offensive success from them.

So much success by so many — 12 different Jackets have scored touchdowns — can make it easy to forget what happened early on and how the games became blowouts.

That’s part of the reason Qua Searcy and his big-play capabilities have remained somewhat in the shadows.

The redshirt-freshman A-Back, who, against Tulane, became the first Yellow Jacket to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game this season, has contributed to fast offensive starts in both the Alcorn State and Tulane victories.

Searcy is one of five Jackets with more than one touchdown and has totaled 67 yards on his five first-quarter touches — four runs and a pass — a not-too-shabby 16.75 yards per play. That includes a 31-yard run on his first carry of the season against Alcorn State, the play preceding a Justin Thomas touchdown that give Tech a 7-0 lead, and a 13-yard jaunt off an option in which he took a pitch from Thomas, got the left corner, took off down the sideline, went airborne at the two and sailed horizontally into the end zone to give the Jackets a 7-0 lead against Tulane.

While both plays were big in drawing first-blood, both also ended up buried underneath the offensive onslaught that followed.

Regardless, taking his place in what has become a crowded Yellow Jackets’ backfield is fine with Searcy, who is used to crowds, being one of seven siblings and step-siblings.

“Justin Thomas makes it a great home for me,” said the 5-11, 174-pound converted wide receiver, from Barnesville, Ga., who was as devastating at corner at Lamar County High School, which he led to the state finals as a senior. “He makes me feel comfortable back there.”

Thomas is as comfortable getting the ball to Searcy and watching him go.

“It’s fun playing with him, just knowing you can get the ball in a guy’s hand like that who can make a play no matter what,” said Thomas. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays in one-on-one space and just get through the seam quick.”

None faster or with more confidence than Searcy.

Head Coach Paul Johnson saw that potential as early as fall camp.

“He’s very athletic and good with the ball,” Johnson said at Football Media Day. “He’s a good receiver. He has to work on some other facets to get better, but Qua is going to play a bunch. He’s definitely going to be in the A-back rotation. He’s going to play a bunch.”

Searcy can expect to play a bunch more with more plays like the rushing touchdown against Tulane, which was a model of how to run Johnson’s spread option offense.

He credited the entire unit for the success of the play.

“I saw the play as getting a touchdown. I’m not thinking about getting caught short,” he said. “The offensive line did a good job of blocking up front, Justin did a good read and I got into the end zone.”

He found the end zone again in the second quarter, this time in a more familiar manner for him. He came off the line, cruised pretty much untouched through the Green Wave secondary and caught the Thomas aerial in stride, with the only green near him being the Grant Field turf under his feet.

“It was in a one-minute offense at that time so we were just trying to get the ball downfield so we could get it out of bounds, also,” Thomas recalled of the 17-yard TD connection. “The match-up was good with him. They let him go free and it was just an easy pass and catch. I missed on the first one. I thought I could have put a little more air under it but we just came back.”

The “first one” came two plays earlier, when the two just missed on a similar play, as Searcy ran free down field but Thomas’ pass was just out of his reach.

Searcy refused to let his QB take the heat for that misconnection and was grateful for the make-good.

“I think I went too much inside a little bit,” he said. “The touchdown pass was pretty good, a pretty good ball. It was nice, very nice.”

Thomas never hesitated in coming right back to Searcy, who ran the basically same pattern he’d run two plays earlier.

“For the most part we had one-on-one coverage. We expect our guys to win those match-ups,” Thomas said. “When we throw the ball we expect big plays.”

As with the rushing touchdown, Searcy credited his teammates for the receiving TD and ability to get open.

“We have other guys that do that job, which opens up places for me,” he said.

His teammates, especially those on the defensive side of the ball, who defend him every day in practice, have a different theory on Searcy’s effectiveness. They sight his impact not only on opposing defenses but on them.

“Qua is a great athlete. We have a lot of guys that are really good athletes,” said defensive end KeShun Freeman. “Qua, being in my class, our class we’re kind of competitive, so being out there in practices and everything, going against him, he gives us a good look when we go into the games.”

“He’s a great player,” added cornerback Chris Milton. “It’s always great going against players that are going to make you better. We always go out and give each other our best. He gets me sometimes, I get him sometimes. That’s just how it is.”

There aren’t a lot of people getting Searcy, at least not early in the game. About the only place they’ve gotten him is on punt-return, where his lone effort was a two-yard loss and a fumble against Alcorn State, which Tech recovered. Of course, that also was in the fourth quarter, at a point where the game had long since been decided, thanks, in part, to his early plays.

This week at No. 8 Notre Dame, the 14th-ranked Yellow Jackets face their biggest test of the season and a game that’s not expected to see as many players on the field.

“It is going to be a step up,” said Johnson. “We just have to go do our thing. It is as much about us as it is who we play.  We have got to go and be dialed in.”

Thomas expects Searcy and the crop of youngsters to be ready and continue to do what they’ve done, especially early on.

“We have young guys but at the same time they’re still just as athletic as [the older] guys if not more,” he said. “They just had to go out there and get game experience. I think these first two games they did well. Next week when the competition is a little bit more they’re going to have to play even better.”

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