Sept. 4, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Georgia Tech did not get a single answer Thursday night to one of its most pressing questions: “Who will play B-back?” The Yellow Jackets got at least two.
Freshman Marcus Marshall and graduate student Patrick Skov manned the all-important fullback position quite nicely, and differently, as a Marshall-Skov Cocktail helped blow up Alcorn State, 69-6 in Bobby Dodd Stadium.
When one guy practically sprints for 184 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries and the other plows his way for 72 and three scores on 12 carries in a 69-6 wipeout win, it’s easier to forget that Tech lost its top three B-backs.
Throw in three carries and 21 more yards from Marcus Allen before an injury, and, well, geez; every mystery should produce such wonderful findings, right?
Paul Johnson even smiled.
“I was joking with [Skov] in the locker room,” the head coach said. “I told him he doubled his career rushing yardage tonight. You can see he’s a tough guy. He’s hard to tackle, he likes to play and runs hard. I think he and Marcus squared . . . are a good combination. They’re different backs.
“Marcus Marshall is a jump-around, dance, speed guy and Patrick’s going to look you up and run over you. So they’re a pretty good combination.”
Skov, who graduated from Stanford with 14 career carries for 25 yards while playing fullback the standard way — which is to say primarily as a battering ram — didn’t have to wait long to check out his new job.
He carried on the second and third plays of the season, for 7 and 4 yards, and four times on the Jackets’ second possession, a six-play drive that ended when he bulled in from 3 yards out for a 13-0 lead.
That was the first of his three touchdowns. He scored four for Stanford, on 14 career carries. So, yeah, he seemed happy.
“After four years of playing traditional fullback, I was blessed with a unique opportunity and I was able to put some good stuff on film,” he said. “Hopefully, every game goes like this one.
“I would say they’re completely different [roles] based on the numbers here. I’ve never had 12 carries in a game . . . It’s a unique opportunity and I’m glad I’ve been able to come here and be a part of this team.”
Marshall didn’t have to wait long to make a mark, either.
On the first play of the Jackets’ fifth possession, quarterback Justin Thomas dropped to pass, zigged and zagged, and took an 18-yard sack.
He referred to it after the game as a “bonehead” move. No matter. Marshall cleaned up one of Tech’s scant few messes right after it happened.
On the next play, he went behind right guard Shamire Devine and turned a dive into a 49-yard dash that certified a virtual party.
The kid brother of highly-acclaimed Georgia speedster/tailback Keith Marshall zipped through enormous opening at the line, made a smooth cut to the left, and was off as if fired out of a cannon. Tech led 34-0 with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
The 5-foot-10, 209-pound freshman from Raleigh looked positively like Tech’s best-ever B-back, Jonathan Dwyer, on that rocket and on several of his eight carries, including a 64-yard scoring run late in the third quarter.
Marshall’s night began with him fretting, thinking, “Don’t mess up; do my job,” and ended with his 184 yards landing him just outside the top 20 single-game rushing performances in Jacket history.
Just like that, he rushed for more yards than his brother — a senior — ever has (164), and more than any Tech player ever in his first game as a running back (Tony Hollings, a converted defensive back, went for 153 against Vanderbilt in 2002).
He landed just shy of Dwyer’s top B-back single-game totals of 189 yards against Wake Forest in overtime in 2009 and 186 against Vanderbilt that season.
“The first one, it was kind of crazy. I was really excited when I saw it open up like that,” he recalled. “Same with the second one. My O-line did a great job on both. They made it easy. I just outran people.
“It was really exciting, simply stated. It’s something I’ve looked forward to growing up.”
At 6-1, 235, Skov is still Ram tough. At Tech, he’s more about moving the ball, though, rather than making room for someone else.
“There’s a lot of contact, like B-back, but I didn’t have the ball in my hands and I was blocking [at Stanford],” he said. “I wouldn’t say I like one more than the other.”
After injuries to potential B-backs C.J. Leggett (last fall) and Quaide Weimerskirch (in spring practice), Allen, a converted linebacker, became Tech’s top B-back before being slowed by injury in the summer.
Hence, the question to which Johnson, B-backs coach Bryan Cook and the Jackets look to have found multiple answers.
Skov is relishing his chance to branch out while witnessing the future in Marshall.
“I love that kid,” he said. “Both of our first games at Georgia Tech . . . of course I’m 23 and he’s 18, and he’s my roommate in the hotel. I just saw these stats. He’s a talented kid and he’s only going to keep getting better.
“I think we build off each other pretty well, and I’m excited for this season for both of us. Like I said, hell of a first collegiate game. I hope he keeps it up. We’ll be alright if our two B-backs score five touchdowns a game.”
Yes, that answer will work more often than not.
Marshall’s second-quarter fumble was Tech’s only turnover. His other seven carries and Thursday night’s result made some things easier to forget.
“Certainly, Marcus Marshall can hit some big plays,” Johnson said. “Like I said, he’s got ability. He’s got good feet. He’s got good speed. I thought Patrick Skov did some good things. He got some tough yards . . . Marcus Allen . . . got hurt a little bit, but he had a couple nice runs when he was in there.”