By Doug Roberson
Tevin Washington walked off Grant Field a winner and record-breaker in his final home game as Georgia Tech’s quarterback.
Afterward, he was more focused on the former than the latter after the Yellow Jackets beat Duke 42-24 to keep alive the team’s hopes of playing in the ACC championship game, and set up next week’s in-state showdown at Georgia.
“I could care less about the records,” he said after setting school and conference records career rushing touchdowns by a quarter. “I just want to get the wins.”
It was a typical Washington performance: a few big pass plays, a few incompletions and a few hold-your-breath tosses on option plays. Washington rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown and passed for 102 yards and three more scores.
Washington has had a curious place at Tech. His predecessor, Joshua Nesbitt, was beloved by Yellow Jackets fans because of his toughness and the fact he led Tech to an ACC championship. Washington became the starter when Nesbitt suffered a broken arm in a game at Virginia Tech the next year. He spent most of 2011 and 2012 hearing from fans that he wasn’t as good as Nesbitt, or that they wanted to see more of his backup, Vad Lee.
That came to fruition in last week’s game against North Carolina when Lee came in on the third series in a planned switch and never left, leading the Jackets to a 68-50 victory. Lee had played sparingly in seven of the previous nine games, so that he played wasn’t a surprise. That he finished the game, and was responsible for 55 points, was a surprise.
Tech stuck to the same quarterback-rotation early against the Blue Devils. Washington played the first two series, leading the Yellow Jackets to two touchdowns.
He scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run to give the Jackets a 7-0 lead. It was his 18th rushing touchdown this season 36th in his career, breaking the school and ACC record for all-time rushing touchdowns by a quarterback that was previously held by Nesbitt.
Washington said after that he hadn’t seen the list of quarterbacks that he bettered, and that he didn’t plan on doing so until after the season. Nor would he think about how the fans have treated him, saying he doesn’t focus on the negative.
“He’s the epitome of perseverance,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Washington followed that on the second series by making the right read on an option play. He handed the ball to B-back David Sims, who sprinted up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Jackets a 14-7 lead.
Lee came on and played the next two series in the first half, adding a touchdown.
Washington was re-inserted in the second half and this time he never left.
He followed his first two touchdown drives with three more that showed his development as a passer.
First, he hit B-back Zach Laskey, who came out of the backfield and got behind the secondary, with a lofted pass with just the right amount of touch for a 28-yard score that gave the Jackets a 28-17 lead. The preceding play illustrated why Washington drives some fans crazy. Rolling right on an option play, Washington put a Duke defender to the ground by faking a pitch to a trailing A-back. Washington kept going and then pitched the ball forward, resulting in an illegal forward pass because he had already crossed the line of scrimmage. He rebounded with the touchdown pass.
He followed that with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Godhigh on a crossing route and capped it with a second touchdown pass to Godhigh.
Washington came out for the last series, which was nothing more than kneel downs. He snapped the final play and tried to keep the game ball. A team manager came and took it.
Washington didn’t seem to care. He doesn’t want the ball or the records. He wants the wins.
“It goes back to something we’ve always talked about it: it’s now how you start it’s how you finish,” he said. “We still have a chance to accomplish all of our goals on our goal board.”