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All Business -- And, Some Late Nervousness

Nov. 19, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn Sting Daily

Tevin Washington was on occasions superb, Jemea Thomas’ fourth-quarter interception was large, and Embry Peeples was everywhere Saturday at Duke.

Really, though, individual performances aside . . . Georgia Tech moved to 8-3 on the back of a play call that prompts sweating and head scratching.

Then again, this is the way head coach Paul Johnson goes about his business.

The call – “Jumbo Right 58” – didn’t surprise Peeples on any level.

It might have shocked you on two.

Tech had called timeout with six seconds left in the first half. Although the Jackets had ripped Duke for three straight touchdown drives after going three-and-out on their first two possessions, the idea of running a play from the Blue Devils’ 1-yard-line was not in the book of football.

It was, after all, fourth down and failure would turn the ball over on time or downs with no points. Speaking of failure, Washington had been stuffed a play earlier with the same real estate between the Jackets and the end zone.

Sure-fire points were there. With a shorter-than-an-extra-point field goal waiting, the Jackets could take a 24-14 to the locker room. Johnson had 28-14 in mind.

Beyond the idea of eschewing near-certain points, there was the design of the play. Jumbo Right 58, which is what Peeples said was called, is an outside play – a play that gives the defense more time to react.

Johnson, though, obviously felt good about it.

“We took the timeout, and coach Johnson said, `Alright, we’re going to run the toss; they’re clamping down on the inside,’ ” Peeples recalled. “We only had one guy to contain the outside. The idea was to get Roddy [Jones] to set the edge. It was open. Roddy chipped him a little, and made him stumble.

“I kind of had a feeling we were going to go for it.”

A fourth-down failure late in the third quarter a game earlier helped doom the Jackets, but Johnson had less to lose Saturday. The Jackets went for it.

And Peeples scored with no time left.

A PAT gave Tech a 28-24 point, and given that Duke outscored the Jackets 17-7 in the second half — which would’ve forced overtime if Tech had failed on that final play of the first half — Peeples’ score and that play call were, ummm… significant.

Of course, a field goal would’ve helped the Jackets avoid overtime as well, but you know how Johnson is.

Peeples was something else Saturday, and he needed to be because with star A-back/kickoff returner Orwin Smith out injured and the Jackets somewhat light at the critical B-back position this season, somebody had to step up.

All Peeples did was rush seven times for 64 yards and a score, catch a 46-yard pass, and return five kickoffs for 80 yards. A modest 190 all-purpose yards for a guy who made his first start of the season . . . that’s not bad. “I was just having some fun out there,” he told Wes Durham after the game.

Peeples wasn’t alone. Washington completed six passes for 185 yards, and led all rushers with 136 yards and a score. Add the fact that Duke QB Sean Renfree tied a career high with four touchdown passes, however, and there was some tension among visitors to the Durham mausoleum.

Duke rallied, and as the Tech offense was less efficient in the second half and Charles Perkins lost a gut-wrenching fumble in the fourth quarter to give the pukes the ball with 3:44 left in the game — when the score was Tech 38, Duke 31 — somebody else was going to have to step up.

Leave it to Thomas, the under-sized non-starter (in title only). His interception – his third in as many games – sealed matters. Tech ran out the clock from there.

This was a tough one for the Jackets. After back-to-back nationally-televised games against top-10 teams (a win against No. 6 Clemson and a loss to No. 10 Virginia Tech), with Georgia on deck and a less-than-intimidating opponent up, Johnson searched for a motivational hook.

He chose to have players wear jackets and ties to Durham, suggesting it was a, “business trip.”

And Tech took care of business.

On the way out of Durham, senior linebacker Steven Sylvester said, “As soon as the final whistle blew, all of our focus is on Georgia.”

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