Sept. 13, 2016
Jon Cooper | The Good Word –
For Qua Searcy, the 2015 season was a case of “when bad things happen to good people,” as the redshirt freshman A-back had showed signs of being a big-time playmaker when his season ended at Notre Dame in Week Three.
But the 5-11, 174-pound, redshirt sophomore and Barnesville, Ga. native is nothing if not resilient and, having fought back from the injury, is back and making up for that lost time in a big-play way.
In Georgia Tech’s first two games of the 2016 season, Searcy has come up with big plays in each contest to give the Yellow Jackets a big lift.
“He’s taken advantage of his opportunities when he’s out there,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “When the ball has come his way, he’s made plays and, when you do that, the ball seems to have a way of finding you. So I’m really pleased with the way he’s playing, the effort. He looks like he’s having fun, he knows what he’s doing, he’s not struggling trying to guess where to go, what to do and he can play wide open and have some fun.”
The ball found him three times for 60 yards In the season-opener against Boston College in Dublin — that matched last season’s receptions total while exceeding his receiving yards from a year ago by 15 yards. His three receptions in Ireland included a 36-yard catch on third-and-12 in the first quarter to set up the Jackets’ first score, then a 22-yard play on fourth-and-19 in the fourth quarter to prolong what proved to be the game-winning drive.
In his first-career start the next week against Mercer, he rushed for a team- and career-high 91 yards requiring only seven carries, one of which was a 31-yard run on first and 10 from the Tech nine that ignited a scoring drive late in the second quarter .
“It was a nice run. I don’t know who the A-back was but he got a pretty good block on the pitch. We had some numbers,” said Johnson. “It should have been better than what it was but we were able to take the thing and go the length of the field and that was big with them getting the ball to start the second half.”
“Our A-backs and receivers did a great job on the perimeter,” said Searcy, who had 76 rushing yards on 13 carries last season. “It was wide open on the sideline and I was able to get around and get that edge.
“It was big. I want to give thanks to the o-line. Without them, the play wouldn’t have developed,” he added. “It was just something that we had to keep our minds in the game because I know at the beginning, we weren’t getting a lot of push. So that big play really helped us with momentum.”
The Jackets, who went three-and-out on the previous drive, pushed the lead to 21-10 at intermission.
Searcy, who was team’s leading receiver in the opener, took home honors as the Jackets’ leading rusher in the second game.
“I feel like I can do either one,” he said. “Whichever coach calls, whichever J.T. [senior quarterback Justin Thomas] checks at the line, I feel like whether it’s a pass or a run, if it’s going to me, I trust my blockers to know that we’ll get a big gain.”
Searcy feels he has turned a corner and is back to where he was prior to his injury last season. Much like he did with the long run, Searcy found a way to deflect the credit.
“I feel like I’m 100 percent. It’s definitely a great feeling [to contribute],” he said. “No one likes to sit out and we have great trainers that helped me get back to 100 percent and I thank them. My teammates uplifted me; they never let me get down. So I really appreciate that.”
B-back Marcus Marshall, whose 10-yard run capped off that second-quarter drive, appreciates the explosiveness that Searcy has shown.
“Qua’s a fast player. He does a good job,” he said. “He definitely makes plays. He’s a playmaker, as you’ve seen.”
Johnson has seen enough to know that Searcy is in the right spot at A-back, after recruiting him as a wide receiver, trying him at defensive back when that position was depleted by injury, then moving him back to A-back last season when that position was bitten by the injury bug.
“I think he’s in the spot that best fits him,” Johnson said. “That’s where he needs to be.”
Teams will need to be paying attention to where Searcy is and he knows he certainly will be part of Vanderbilt’s defensive meetings leading up to this week’s ACC-SEC showdown at Bobby Dodd Stadium (12:30 p.m.). But he’s not flinching at the thought of the extra attention he’ll receive this week and down the road.
After all, it’s not about him.
“I feel like that just opens up more room for other players to make plays,” he said. “If we just focus on what we do and if the ball is coming to me, I just make plays. Like I said, it opens things up for other players.”