Just when an opponent thinks it figured out Paul Johnson‘s triple option scheme, Georgia Tech’s offense counters and attacks them in a different manner.
The No. 12 Yellow Jackets came out swinging against the No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs adjusted during the second quarter, but Georgia Tech threw a counter punch that allowed them to take a 21-20 lead into halftime of the 80th Capital One Orange Bowl.
After an early turnover, it didn’t take long for the Yellow Jackets to capitalize. Georgia Tech quickly drove the ball 36 yards with senior running back Synjyn Days opening the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run.
Before the first quarter ended, Johnson’s squad manufactured another scoring drive. This time, the Yellow Jacket stung the Bulldogs with a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Thomas to senior wide receiver Darren Waller.
Mississippi State adjusted in the second quarter after falling behind 14-0. A pair of field goals and a five-yard touchdown run from quarterback Dak Prescott brought the Bulldogs within one point.
However, Johnson unleashed his option quarterback and allowed Thomas to start pushing the ball down the field. The sophomore was 3-for-3 on the Yellow Jackets’ final drive before the quarterback scampered 13 yards for Georgia Tech’s third touchdown.
Overall, Georgia Tech gained 259 total yards. Mississippi State would no not be outdone, though.
A Hail Mary pass as the first half clock expired allowed the Bulldogs to again pull within one point going into halftime.
Punch. Counter punch.
Georgia Tech controlled the first half, yet Mississippi State wouldn’t go away. The Yellow Jackets will continue to adjust their offensive system on the fly. The Bulldogs will need to take advantage of their athleticism and overall talent to eventually overcome Georgia Tech’s superior scheme.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have combined to rush 21 times for 150 yards – more than seven yards a pop – and a touchdown. Hutson Mason has completed eight of his nine passes for 88 yards. The Bulldog defense has held Georgia Tech without, and the special teams have blocked a field goal.
But Georgia has lost two fumbles at the Georgia Tech goal line, and as a result the ninth-ranked Bulldogs and No. 16 Georgia Tech are knotted at 7-7 at the half in Athens.
The first came on a 2nd-and-goal at the Yellow Jackets’ 1-yard line. Chubb ripped off a 65-yard run to put the Bulldogs on the doorstep, but he was stuffed on 1st-and-goal and lost the ball on 2nd down, perhaps due to fatigue from the previous two plays.
Lightning struck again with just over three minutes to go before the half, this time on a Michel 13-yard run that was nearly a 14-yard touchdown, but Quayshawn Nealy popped the ball out at the 1, and Isaiah Johnson recovered it inside the end zone.
Georgia Tech responded by moving 80 yards in 14 plays and 2:56, capped by a Justin Thomas touchdown pass to Darren Waller with eight seconds remaining. The score helped the Ramblin’ Wreck avoid its first opening half shutout since 2008.
Georgia opened the game with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a one-yard Chubb plunge.
Georgia Tech will receive the ball to open the second half.
Violations of Georgia Tech’s student-athlete conduct policy will place two Yellow Jackets on the bench to open the 2014 season. Wide receiver Anthony Autry and A-back Dennis Andrews were each suspended for two games to start the 2014 season according to multiple reports. Georgia Tech opens the 2014 season at home against Wofford and on the road at Tulane.
The specifics for the violations have not been reported, and the school will not go into further detail on the subject, which is a standard protocol for college football programs.
As a freshman last fall, Andrews rushed for 140 yards on 12 carries in 13 games. Autry, a redshirt sophomore, missed the 2013 season due to a knee injury. Autry appeared in eight games as a true freshman in 2012, starting three games before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year in October. Autry’s brother, Myles Autry, committed to Georgia Tech in the Class of 2014, and the two brothers are expected to be a part of the offense this fall. It seems the brother-combo will have to wait at least a couple of games before having any sort of impact.
Georgia Tech’s depth at the receiver position takes a small hit as a result of these latest suspensions. Earlier this spring, Georgia Tech also suspended receiver Darren Waller for the first two games. Waller is the team’s top returning receiver after recording 367 receiving yards and three touchdowns for Georgia Tech last season.
It’s a soggy afternoon down in Atlanta for ACC football between Georgia Tech and North Carolina, but that has not been enough to slow the Tar Heels down in the first half. North Carolina has built a 20-14 lead.
Bryn Renner has thrown for 178 yards and two touchdowns and his receivers have dropped a handful of passes as well. Perhaps the weather conditions are playing a factor in to the production. Romar Morris has rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown to lead North Carolina’s offense and the Tar Heel defense has done well to not allow Georgia Tech to find a rhythm.
North Carolina wasted little tim in opening the scoring with a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. Morris capped a quick six-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run to the left side of the field, but North Carolina failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt. The lead was expanded to 13-0 following a Renner touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
Georgia Tech finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when David Sims barely cross the goal line before losing grip on the football. Sims had just crossed the goal line as the ball popped loose and was scooped up by North Carolina. The initial ruling was touchdown and a video review determined there was conclusive enough evidence to overturn the call. Ultimately it appears the right call was made but it was very close to being a punch-to-the-gut moment for the Yellow Jackets. If the ball had been ruled a fumble, the turnover likely would have upheld because the replay was so close either way. Down 13-0 at the time, not punching one in from the goal line would have left a very empty feeling for the home team.
Renner scrambled to keep a play alive inside the red zone on the ensuing possession and found Sean Tapley for another touchdown. Georgia Tech picked up a critical touchdown late in the half to cut in to the lead and maybe even flip the momentum in their favor. The Tar Heels could not get off the field on a third and long around midfield and Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee connected with Darren Waller for a 21-yard touchdown over the middle of the field. Lee has only attempted nine passes, which is typical of a Paul Johnson offense, but he has completed five of them for 82 yards and a touchdown.
The game doesn’t feel as though it should be as close as it is at the half, but credit to Georgia Tech for not going away at the end of the half. If North Carolina can pull this one out they will make a huge statement in the ACC Coastal Division, but right now Georgia Tech is in solid position to come back as well.