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#TGW: A-Plus Day for B-Backs

Sept. 18, 2016

Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

If you were to grade Georgia Tech’s 38-7 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, you’d have to give it a B because the B-backs scored the first four touchdowns.

This game had B written upon it from the jump when sophomore B-back leaked out of the backfield, found himself wide open for a pass from and went all track meet to finish an 81-yard scoring play.

Freshman B-back added three rushing scores on an A-plus day.

Marshall’s strike was a broken pattern of sorts in that Vandy coach Derek Mason said that the play didn’t exactly show up in his team’s scouting report of Tech.

Actually, it was part of Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s plan all along, a play called well in advance of the Yellow Jackets’ first huddle.

“Yeah,” Johnson said when asked if what he’d known about Vanderbilt prompted the call. “I knew that they’d have to have a linebacker on [Marshall] on the wheel route. And he’s pretty fast.”

Vandy inside linebacker Nigel Bowden, who goes 6-feet-1, 240 pounds, didn’t come close to covering Marshall, who ran away from the nearest defender as if the Commodore wore concrete boots. A solid downfield block by Tech wide receiver wiped out the safety and Marshall scored easily.

Truth be told, Vandy had sort of seen the play on tape but previously the Jackets ran it differently — and not successfully as Tech did not complete a pass to a B-back in its first two games — to the tight side of the field.

“We got schemed early,” Mason said. “That particular play had come only to the boundary, with motion. We had only seen it coming to the boundary, not the field [wide side]. [The Jackets] self-scouted themselves. When you self-scout yourself, you look at your tendencies. That was a great play-call.”

Mills was happy just to be playing again.

He was suspended for last week’s win over Mercer for violating team rules.

So, while his 58 rushing yards on 14 carries won’t land him in Heisman Trophy conversations, he considered his touchdown runs of 15, four and five yards as quite a nice participation trophy.

Mills smiled quite a bit after the game, but not at first. Asked about the opportunity to redeem himself, he said, “Sitting out last week made me think a lot and I hurt my team last week. We could have put more points on the board. My mindset was to make a comeback.”

The Jackets never had to rally from behind against the Commodores, and the B-backs — chiefly Mills, who added one reception for 4 yards — were in the middle of much of the game plan without being ball hogs.

Those B-backs were nice decoys.

Tech had considerable success running the flanks, as Thomas gained quite a few of his game-high 84 yards outside on 11 carries, and A-backs (three carries, 77 yards) and (a 23-yarder) were of particular impact.

After backup quarterback faked a handoff to the B-back in the fourth quarter to draw Vandy’s secondary forward, a long pass to Lynch resulted in a picture-perfect 77-yard score.

“Dedrick got some tough yards,” Johnson said. “[The Commodores] were kind of committed to stopping the B-back inside, which is fine because it opens up the pitches and we had some huge plays on the perimeter when we got the thing executed right.”

The B-backs’ usage rate was down a smidge, yet their efficiency rating was high.

They had 40 of Tech’s 96 carries (41.7 percent) over the first two games, and 17-of-46 (37 percent) Saturday. Mills rushed three times for eight yards.

B-backs had 19-of-54 touches (35.2 percent) between rushes and reception, yet scored 80 percent of Tech’s five touchdowns.

Hopes are high for the cornerstone position in Tech’s unique offense.

Marshall has demonstrated breakaway speed before and, while Mills still has fine tuning to do, he’s progressing nicely for a young man mere months removed from high school.

The head coach spoke of occasions where Thomas tried to pull the ball out of Mills’ gut on the midline handoff/mesh but it was difficult because the B-back was attacking interior defenders too hard while still sharing the ball with his QB.

“[Thomas] had a hard time getting off the B-back a few times, but that’s more Dedrick than it is him,” Johnson said. “[Mills] is a good kid; he really is. He’s got to learn to get tackled inside [on that play, making it easier for the quarterback to pull the ball] rather than brace outside.

“He loves to play, and I think . . . the more he plays, the better he’s going to get.”


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