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A Strong Finish

Nov. 17, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Tevin Washington didn’t ask how long he’d stay in at halftime on Nov. 4, 2010, when the Georgia Tech starting quarterback job became his at Virginia Tech following the career-ending injury to Joshua Nesbitt.

The senior co-captain didn’t ask how long he’d stay out at halftime of the Chapel Hill Invitational Track Meet on Nov. 10, 2012, when the Georgia Tech starting quarterback job became Vad Lee’s and the 30-point third quarter unfolded.

Washington has never asked about what is or isn’t his.

“I’m just focused on making sure we get wins,” said Washington following Georgia Tech’s 42-24 win over Duke Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the Yellow Jackets’ 2012 home finale. “I’m a team player. I’m team first. I feel like as long as we win I’m happy.”

Washington ran for a touchdown and threw for three more as the Jackets crushed the Blue Devils, earning their sixth win of the season, making them bowl eligible for the 16th straight season and giving themselves a shot at a berth in the ACC title game. None of that seemed possible only three weeks ago.

Neither did Washington one day replacing his predecessor and mentor, Nesbitt at the top of the school and conference record books for most season – and career-rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, when he replaced Nesbitt that Thursday night at Lane Stadium.

But Washington methodically added to his total until it became evident that it was a matter of when, not if he would pass Nesbitt. At the 5:45 mark of the first quarter on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium, he crossed the goal line one more time and the record was his.

After 28 games as a starter over two-plus seasons, the quarterback, who is the first since the legendary George Godsey to play after having already graduated, had his chance to talk about the run to glory.

“I think it says a lot about the offensive line. Those guys make a lot of things possible,” he said. “So I just congratulate my teammates for helping me be in that position. I’m just blessed to be in that position.

“I haven’t really looked at the list,” he added. “I’ve just been looking at the schedule. One game at a time. I couldn’t care less about the record right now.”

That team-first approach is why after the game, where Washington had the hot hand and saw the lion’s share of the 38:10 Tech had the ball, they were happy for the game he just had, not the record.

“I think he’s the epitome of perseverance. I couldn’t be happier for him to play his last home game and play like he did today,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “I thought he played a great game. He managed the offense, he hit some big pass plays on third down for us, the one down there to Robby (Godhigh) was a big play. I’m happy for him.”

“Tev’s played great for us all season,” added redshirt junior A-Back Robert Godhigh, who caught two of Washington’s scoring aerials (sophomore B-Back Zach Laskey got the other). “He’s our leader on offense and for the team and I’m just glad to see him stepping into that role and helping us out winning these games.”

Coming through on Senior Day was justice being served.

“He’s one of my good friends off the field so it’s always good to see him have a good day being that he’s struggled on the season a little bit,” said defensive tackle T.J. Barnes. “It’s always good to see him have a good day and help the offense, lead and score 42 points.”

His records do need to be discussed, even if it’s not right now by Washington. His one-yard plunge not only put him atop of the ACC and Georgia Tech lists for QBs, he moved into second for Tech football players of any position for career touchdowns, behind Robert Lavette, one ahead of Jonathan Dwyer, and into a tie for first for rushing touchdowns in a season, with Lavette.

There is no doubt that Washington is the product of Johnson’s Spread Option Offense, one that makes him more open to take liberties and take off more often than he’s called upon to pass. He’s simply did what any good quarterback would do, take what he’s given within the context of his offense.

On Saturday, he found that staying cool and staying in the pocket was more beneficial to what the Yellow Jackets needed.

“I felt like as long as I stayed in the pocket and kept my poise and stayed under control back there, guys were going to come open down field,” said Washington, who completed 6-of-10 for 102 yards. “It was all on me to stay under control. We have guys running open down field we have to be able to complete some passes.”

The three touchdown passes almost doubled his touchdown pass total for the year, as he now has seven. It was the first game since the 2011 season opener against Western Carolina that he had thrown three touchdown passes in a game.

Washington is the only quarterback in Paul Johnson’s five seasons on the Flats who has thrown three TD passes in one game. And he’s done it twice now.

But just because officials have caught more balls from Washington on touchdown plays than Yellow Jackets receivers doesn’t mean he can’t throw the ball.

Fairly or unfairly, Washington has taken a lot of the criticism for the Jackets’ up and down season in 2012. Lee’s rise led to speculation that No. 13’s days taking snaps was over. In Lee, the next big thing was here — something that may yet prove to be true.

Washington, however, wasn’t reading about his demise. In the same manner in which he avoided reading about the ACC greats he was passing in the record books he avoided reading about his being passed as Yellow Jackets starter. Not even last week, when Lee orchestrated Tech’s offense as it lit up the scoreboard in unprecedented fashion.

“Coach Johnson talked to me last week at halftime and pretty much told me I would go back in if they ever got a stop,” he explained. “They never got a stop. So there wasn’t any point in me going back in the game when Vad was having a good game.”

With the four touchdowns Washington was responsible for on Saturday — and especially the ratio — he might get his share of credit for the Jackets getting off the deck and into the hunt. But credit’s not important. Nor is a mea culpa from everyone that gave up on Tech and Washington.

“That’s not for me to judge,” he said, while sitting next to offensive tackle Ray Beno, whose “right place at the right time” catch of a pass off Chris Jackson’s hands and ensuing eight-yard rumble resulted in a big, drive-extending first down in the third quarter. “I just go out and play week in and week out. I really don’t pay attention to any of the negative stuff anyway.”

Fortunately, he’s always had support where it matters, with Johnson.

“I appreciate him,” he said. “He works hard every day, he’s a great kid. I’m glad he’s in our program. I appreciate him.”

Washington admitted that in time he will appreciate his accomplishments. Just not right now.

“At the end of the year, when everything’s all said and done, I’ll look at it then,” he said.

Things aren’t nearly done for the Jackets, as arch-rival and No. 5 Georgia awaits in hostile Athens.

“Guys are going to be fired up going into this game,” he said. “It’s on our goal board to beat UGA. So I think guys are licking their chops to get a chance to go to Athens next weekend and play.”

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