Sept. 23, 2012
By Jon Cooper
At 5-8, 173 pounds, Tony Zenon isn’t the biggest threat physically coming out of the Georgia Tech backfield.
But Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium against Miami, the redshirt-sophomore A-Back proved he could be a big threat realistically coming out of Tech’s backfield.
“Tony made some nice plays,” said head coach Paul Johnson following the Jackets’ gut-wrenching 42-36 overtime loss. “He caught the ball on the pitch and made some nice runs. He had a nice catch or two, so I think he did some good things.”
Drawing any kind of extended positives out of Johnson following the emotionally devastating loss was understandably difficult, which made his praises of Zenon even more special.
Zenon was a key part of Georgia Tech’s run of 36 unanswered points in a little over 20 minutes that turned a 19-0 deficit after the first quarter into a 36-19 lead early in the third.
He lit the fuse on Tech’s offensive fireworks and got the crowd back into the game when on first-and-10 at the Tech 36 he snuck out of the backfield, then blew past Miami corner Brandon McGee and turned it on down the left sideline, catching Tevin Washington’s pass in stride for a 57-yard play. Tech was in business at the Miami eight and two plays later was on the board.
Making the catch even bigger was the timing. Tech had been outplayed in the first quarter then saw a 79-yard run by Orwin Smith, which might have given the Jackets some momentum, called back for off-setting penalties only three plays earlier.
Later in the half with the game tied at 19, Zenon gained 18 of Tech’s 23 yards on a short-field drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal and a 22-19 lead.
On Tech’s opening drive of the second half, Zenon again went to work. This time, on a second-and-10 play at the UM 35, he took a pitch from Washington, got outside then took off, again down the left sideline, taking it the distance, to give the Jackets a 29-19 lead.
Zenon heaped the praise on his teammates for their parts in making his two big plays look so easy.
“Our guys did a pretty good job of blocking on the perimeter so it was pretty much open for me,” he said of the first career rushing touchdown and second overall. “On the pass plays, because we run the ball so much, on play action most times we can get them off-guard. It was a good throw. I just had to catch the ball.”
Zenon WAS the Jackets’ passing offense in the first half, as his two catches for 74 yards accounted for Tech’s total pass production.
He finished the day with those 74 receiving yards and 57 yards on the ground, for a total of 132 all-purpose yards. It was a nice day personally, for Zenon, who came into the Miami game with a total of 133 all-purpose yards for the season!
“When it’s my time to step up in the game, I just want to take advantage of any opportunity that I get,” he said.
For the record, Zenon’s 57-yard reception was the second-longest of his career. The longest was a 73-yarder for a touchdown last year against Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders come to Bobby Dodd Stadium next Saturday.