When in doubt, schedule Presbyterian College.
After a 75-year hiatus, Georgia Tech resumed its torment of the Clinton, S.C., school, pile-driving the Blue Hose in a 59-3 rout.
“I don’t care who you play,” coach Paul Johnson said. “If you hit that many plays, you’re doing some things right.”
On a pleasant night at Bobby Dodd Stadium, P.C. stood doubly for Presbyterian College and Palate Cleanser. Five days after a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener, the Jackets delivered a battery of big-play roundhouses to the Blue Hose and leveled their record at 1-1. It was not a flawless performance, but nevertheless provided useful game experience as the Jackets venture into a season-shaping two-week stretch. Tech will be at home for the next two Saturdays against ACC Coastal Division opponents Virginia and Miami, who beat the Jackets on successive Saturdays last fall after Tech’s 6-0 start.
“Take it, watch the tape, learn from it and move on,” Johnson said.
After falling behind the Hokies in the division race, the Jackets will likely need to run the table in ACC play to have a chance to win the Coastal and play for the conference championship.
Donning navy jerseys for the first time since 2010, the Jackets scored seven touchdowns and added a field goal in their first 13 drives. In 15 Presbyterian possessions, Tech forced eight three-and-outs and ended two other drives with turnovers.
Only a last-second field goal prevented the Tech defense from registering its first shutout in defensive coordinator Al Groh’s administration and the Jackets’ first since a 27-0 win over Duke in 2008. Facing a redshirt freshman quarterback playing his second career game, Tech held Presbyterian to 243 yards and 10 first downs. The Jackets kept the scoreboard clean with a second-quarter goal-line stand in which they denied Presbyterian on third- and fourth-down plays from the 1-yard line.
That Presbyterian possession was the only one of two that reached the Tech red zone.
“They’re really talented defensively,” Presbyterian coach Harold Nichols said. “Coach Groh does a lot of things that make it hard for you to prepare for.”
Offensively, Tech surrounded a handful of clunky possessions with overpowering playmaking out of its option-based spread offense. By the end of the first quarter, Tech led 21-0 and had staggered Presbyterian with a 56-yard touchdown run by B-back Zach Laskey, a 58-yard scoring run by quarterback Tevin Washington and a third score in which the Jackets bounded 51 yards into the end zone in just five plays.
“It happened pretty quickly,” Laskey said of his scoring run. “I think the safety might have overrun it and then it was wide open. I just picked my legs up and grinded it out.”
Tech added only a field goal in the second quarter, as its first two series ended in fumbles, the first by Washington as he was hit from behind. On the second, quarterback Synjyn Days, subbing for Washington, dove into the end zone for an apparent two-yard touchdown but lost control of the ball. Presbyterian safety Brandon Leston scooped up the ball in the end zone and would have scored but for A-back Tony Zenon chasing him down at the Tech 9-yard line.
“Offensively, we were O.K. in spots, were sloppy, had the ball out too much,” Johnson said. “We’ve got an issue or two there we’ve got to correct.”
A 21-point third quarter freed up coach Paul Johnson to flood the field with reserves in the fourth quarter. The game’s scene-stealer was backup quarterback Vad Lee, who scribbled his way into the Tech record books in that third quarter in his first game as a Jacket. The ballyhooed quarterback connected with wide receiver Jeff Greene for an 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown, dropping an on-target spiral into Greene’s hands about 35 yards downfield. It tied for the sixth longest pass play in school history.
“Vad put it right there on the money,” Greene said.
On Tech’s next series, Lee leapt to snag a high shotgun snap, then shot through a gap in the line and dashed 79 yards on a quarterback draw, getting tripped up two yards shy of the end zone, out of gas. From the bureau of peculiar records came this gem: It tied for the longest non-scoring play in Tech’s 120 years of football.
“I know after that long run, I was kind of winded a little bit,” Lee said.
What can be said of Presbyterian? Football-wise, not volumes.
The school joined Division I play in football in 2008 and entered the night with an 11-35 record in that span. Presbyterian, the smallest school in Division I with an enrollment of 1,200, was a late addition to the Tech schedule to fill out the schedule after the Jackets had to adjust their schedule to play in the Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech. The Blue Hose received $400,000 for their troubles.
In the 1930’s, the schools played each other three times, with Tech winning all three by a combined 147-0.