Georgia Tech opens with blowout (and were those passes?)

Yes, that is a Georgia Tech wide receiver (Stephen Hill) taking off for an 82-yard touchdown play. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Yes, that's a Tech wide receiver (Stephen Hill) scoring an 82-yard touchdown. (Johnny Crawford)

(Updated)

Notwithstanding that the season opener came against a punching bag, and that Georgia Tech made the decision to hold the game on a Thursday night, without the benefits of national television (or national TV dollars), it was a perfect evening for the Jackets.

They were just good enough to make the fan base feel hopeful and curious about this season.

They were just flawed enough to give Paul Johnson a reason to spend the next several days telling his players how disgusted he was.

That’s the kind of balance you’re looking for.

Coming off a miserable 6-7 season and an offseason that included the NCAA stripping the program of its ACC title, the Jackets blew doors off in the 2011 opener. They led Western Carolina 28-0 in the first quarter, 42-21 at halftime, 56-21 after three quarters and won 63-21.

Uncle.

It wasn’t all pretty. An excess of thumbs remained in evidence. The Jackets had four fumbles (two lost) in the first half. (They led the nation last season with 20 lost fumbles). They had a field-goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown, and fumbled a punt return, leading to another score.

But the highs fairly eclipsed the lows.

Especially this one: They passed.

Remember the forward pass? The first legal one in American football took place in 1906. In the 105 years since, it’s believed Paul Johnson’s run-dominated option had accumulated 17 passes total.

OK, slight exaggeration. By not much.

Tech quarterback Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days combined to throw for 365 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-16 passing. That included plays of 82 (touchdown), 77 (touchdown) and 66 yards.

“We’re going to have to throw the ball a little bit more [this season],” Johnson said. “We’re so young on the offensive line. The kids have worked hard this summer, and we’ve gotten a little better at it. The protection has gotten a little better.”

It was 28-0 less than 12 minutes (and four offensive possessions) into the game. Washington and Days already had combined for more passing yards (148) than Tech had in any game all last season. By halftime, they had almost as many net passing yards (260) as any Jackets team has had in the Johnson era (266). Johnson was channeling his inner Sid Gillman.

Given the college football landscape, maybe he’s just plotting to move the Jackets into the Big 12.

Some of what happened could be attributed to the opponent. Western Carolina is manna for the ACC. Its all-time record against the conference: 0-27. But it was about more than that.

Johnson, while he always will be a run first (and second, and third …) coach, is determined to elevate Tech’s passing game to somewhere north of humiliating. The Jackets ranked 119th out of 120 teams last season — just one popgun ahead of Army at 83.9 yards per game.

Less than five minutes into Thursday’s game, Washington tossed a safe sideline pass to Stephen Hill, who turned up field, stiff-armed a Western Carolina defender and blasted off for an 82-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Days completed a short pass over the middle to Tyler Melton, who similarly knocked away a defender and ran up field for a 66-yard play before being caught at the Catamounts’ 7-yard line.

It will be interesting to see how much Johnson tries to carry over this attack into next week’s game at Middle Tennessee State. At some point, Tech fans might even start paying attention. Bobby Dodd Stadium was only about two-thirds full. The Jackets made the unusual decision to play this game on a Thursday night, even though there was no ESPN money as an incentive. The online feed on ESPN3.com didn’t even net Dan Radakovich a Chris Berman bobblehead doll.

Tech had its reasons. Radakovich wanted to work in a home night game early in the season, and there weren’t any other certain options. There also was a concern that students might flee campus during the holiday weekend, hurting Saturday’s potential attendance. Johnson also liked the idea of having two extra days for fixes and adjustments between Games 1 and 2.

There are things to fix. Strangely enough, the passing isn’t one of them.

Earlier:

Weekend Predictions: It’s football time (but just not feeling Dogs over Boise)

Richt and Georgia have a chance to alter perceptions

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

244 comments Add your comment

Brian

September 1st, 2011
10:39 pm

Well Done Jackets! not happy about giving up 3 TDs but overall impressed

jarvis

September 1st, 2011
10:44 pm

Backhanded complement.

jarvis

September 1st, 2011
10:45 pm

or compliment.

GTJason

September 1st, 2011
10:45 pm

The game was great. A little skeptical about red zone offense still as we scored on big plays but it was a highlight reel to watch.

Jamaaliver

September 1st, 2011
10:46 pm

Hopeful and curious indeed.

It’ll be an interesting season. Good to see Coach Johnson still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

George P. Burdell

September 1st, 2011
10:46 pm

Nice summary of the game Jeff. Tech showed enough intensity and flashes to make us fans happy and at the same time made enough miscues to give the coaches plenty to yell about. I’ve been cautiously optimistic this will be a good year on the Flats and this game has done nothing to change my opinion that we will be pretty good while also realizing we aren’t that far removed from having a bad season with a few bad bounces.

c3033

September 1st, 2011
10:51 pm

Special teams can make the difference between a bad season and an ok season or between a good and a great season. Hopefully CPJ got a wake up call with this early easy game to really put some work into that area….Otherwise good effort Tech!

redhairpimplefacetechnerd

September 1st, 2011
10:51 pm

We found our competition level,can we join Western’s conference ?

Boobie Bowden

September 1st, 2011
10:52 pm

A W is a W is a W. Just ask the dawgies after Saturday when the Broncos fly off high and they limp back to Athens.

GT-UT

September 1st, 2011
10:53 pm

Funny article…spot on.
Nice to see the pass. Worried how the D got tired. Hope the O-Line doesn’t get complacent. It’s 150% tougher going up again Sr. Clemson D-Linemen!! Push HARD guys!!
Good win…celebrate…be happy…MTSU is much tougher…

secfactcheck.com

September 1st, 2011
10:54 pm

Offensive scheme has never been the problem for Tech. DEFENSE is why Al Groh is here. TECH will score. Defense looks better. Special team needs to understand what special means.

Congrats Tech. Next.

fan of shorter passes

September 1st, 2011
10:54 pm

GT-UT

September 1st, 2011
10:56 pm

Oh!! Loved the “Time-Out” Contest!!

Arob

September 1st, 2011
10:56 pm

looking forward to watching replay, but nice to hear some of the young players stepping up in addition to the passing game opening up, albeit against this joke of an opponent. jury still out due to competition but a good start nonetheless

Roger Sterling

September 1st, 2011
10:57 pm

Didn’t Brookwood beat Western Carolina last week in a pre-season jamboree game?

Arob

September 1st, 2011
10:58 pm

GT UT,
Tech and Tennessee? or Texas?

secfactcheck.com

September 1st, 2011
10:59 pm

Tech is ready to be in the SEC. Tonight’s oponent looks like 1/3 of most SEC team schedules.

Go Jackets.

GT-UT

September 1st, 2011
11:01 pm

Longhorns…Undergrad at Tech…Masters @ Austin

secfactcheck.com

September 1st, 2011
11:01 pm

At the half… Kentucky 7, W. Kentucky 3. It’s tough week in week out in the SEC.

SEC Fact Finder

September 1st, 2011
11:01 pm

Nice job of throwing it around. It looked like Paul Johnson did not want to show to much of his “real’ offense this week. Trying to be funny there. But good job of getting a great deal of kids in the game and get some valuable experience in a college game.

Job growth

September 1st, 2011
11:02 pm

Maybe in Obama’s new economic plan there will be some money that GT can use for a special teams coach! I’ve never seen a practice so I don’t know if special teams are a focus for us or not. You can practice special teams all you want but for some teams they are just going thru the motions. The Beamers and Meyers of the world emphasize and demand greatness from special teams. I’ll be surprised if ST doesn’t cost us at least one game this yr.

ArkyTech

September 1st, 2011
11:03 pm

D got tired? That why they gave up 7 points, all in the first half?

Southern conference

September 1st, 2011
11:03 pm

Its now been established Tech wouldn’t finish last in the Southern Conference.Easy tio see why there not ranked very poorly coached team.

Gordon

September 1st, 2011
11:04 pm

WCU wasn’t athletic enough to tell us anything about Tech. It is clear our special teams still needs lots of work. But no one got hurt.

GT-UT

September 1st, 2011
11:06 pm

Yeah…a sub D-2 team moved the ball on the Defense. Worries me, that’s all. Although, I think we look a little bigger more athletic than last year. Like the guts hanging over on the D-Line. We need haus’s in the 3-4.

pontevedrajacket

September 1st, 2011
11:07 pm

Great to see what we hope is the future of the passing game.
We need to see a more wide open attack this season.

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:10 pm

Just got back from the game and wanted to rain on all of these delusional fans’ parade. We looked horrible. If Tevin Washington throws any of those balls against any defense other than the high school team we played tonight, its a pick six every time. Twinkle Toes Tevin Washington is terrible. He prances around and throws like a girl. And that 3-4 defense didn’t really show me squat tonight. As others have mentioned, its hard to tell against a hapless Western Carolina team.

I didn’t like much of what I saw tonight. Tevin’s stats are really over-inflated with the screen pass to HIll. Most of his other throws should’ve been picked off. Just not seeing whatever Johnson sees in the kid. This offense is really getting old quick. A halfway decent team would’ve beaten us tonight.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:11 pm

From someone at the game, the D looked solid, and honestly you can only credit them with 7 of those points (14 go straight to special teams). Overall, good win, good job by the offense, and can’t wait to see what this season holds

ATLER (RAMBLIN WRECK)

September 1st, 2011
11:12 pm

Great win guys, let’s keep it going for the season. We have to stay focused and don’t worry about the negative haters on the program’s jock strap. This year is our year!!!!!! Go Ga Tech!!!!

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:13 pm

Lol, St. Richt, take it from someone else who was actually at the game, we looked pretty damn good passing the ball out there. Guess what, a lot of teams throw the bubble screen and have it go knowhere. Stephen Hill fought for that and would’ve made that play against a lot of players in the open field by the strength he showed there. No, Tevin isn’t the best thrower, but you make it sound like he was horrid out there, which is total BS. Get real bro.

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:14 pm

On a positive note, Julian Burnett might be one of the best LB’s we’ve had on the flats in years. But our first team D as a whole really didn’t show me much tonight. As others have said, the Catamounts put together way too many sustained drives on us tonight. And other than some plays early, we still didn’t show much of a pass rush tonight. We need somebody thats a little more hungry coming off the corners at DE.

All in all, I was very disappointed in what I saw.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:14 pm

Lol, excuse my late night english error. Nowhere, not knowhere, haha.

ROZEMAN13

September 1st, 2011
11:15 pm

Tech fans listen to Gordon, nobody got hurt! Not a true test,long season ahead

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:16 pm

You mean maybe the three total long drives they put together? Maybe? And only one of those went for a TD. Be a debbie downer all you want, I saw a helluva lot more out of this team in this game than I did from the team in the first game last year. Jeff’s analysis is pretty spot on. But I do agree, Burnett will be pretty damn good this year, along with many others in the game.

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:17 pm

LOL GTPhenom, you must’ve never played a down in your life to be happy with tonight’s performance. The Catamounts are sorry and Tevin’s passes looked like a Pop Warner QB. The WR had to wait for the ball almost every time to the point they stopped completely on the route. He doesn’t know how to lead the receiver and might have the weakest arm of any QB ever to play at GT. As I’ve said, most of his passes tonight get picked off by ANY ACC team.

Buzz 2011

September 1st, 2011
11:18 pm

Pretty good ” high school” offence CPJ. Give them what they want this year.. do you want to die on the ground or through the air.. We want some Dog……………..

Jay

September 1st, 2011
11:20 pm

D needs some work. Offense looked good. Now next week, I will be saying the opposite. Let’s put a full game together next week jackets.

Buzz 2011

September 1st, 2011
11:20 pm

GT is now complimenting one of the best running games in the country with a good passing game. The defense was flying too.. Oh my!!

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:21 pm

Stephen Hill looked pretty good and this was a good game for his confidence. But not many corners will roll over like the chump did tonight when he stiff armed him and took it the distance. The Catamounts made it really hard to determine much about our team tonight. Orwin Smith looked great as expected. We’ve got some players but we are really lacking at QB, obviously, if Tevin is our guy. Sorry to upset you, but just calling it like I see it.

The Ghost of Wally Butts

September 1st, 2011
11:22 pm

Hearty Congratulations North Avenue Insects!! You trounced a team that would have given a high school class “A” team a tough time for about….oh…2 quarters!

Bwaa haa haa haa!

Lets us know when you are ready to play a Division 1 Game of Big Boy Football.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:22 pm

Lol, love how you assume you know me bro. I actually played O-Line and DE for my team. Yeah, the Catamounts are pretty bad, but Tevins fundamentals were pretty damn solid here. I can think of one or two that kind of floated on him, but he was solid. As I said, instead of being a complete pessimist and letting that block your judgement, look at the game as a whole. If you seriously aren’t happy with 63 points (btw, most scored in the CPJ era) or 650 yards (also btw, most in the CPJ era), then you are missing something here. Not saying they were perfect; far from it, but they looked way better than in previous openers, and against a watered down, weakened ACC (particularly in the Coastal), I’m starting to like our chances more and more. Have a nice night man, I’m going to go celebrate a GT win.

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:23 pm

Buzz2011, you must be buzzed to think we have a good passing game after we sliced up one of the worst Southern Conference teams I’ve ever laid my eyes on. That team was just plain god awful that we played tonight.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:23 pm

And let me add one more thing. I’m a Days/Lee fan. I think both can throw better than Tevin. But he was nowhere near as bad as you make him out to be.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:25 pm

And St. Richt, honestly man you are sounding a good bit like a UGA fan. Cause every GT fan I know that actually attends or attended the school has a helluva lot more spirit in this team than you are showing. Like I said, sometimes, it is a lot better to see the cup half full (especially in this case)

George P

September 1st, 2011
11:26 pm

I wish Days would consider pitching the ball every now and then. Either he missed some reads or he had already made up his mind to keep the ball.

But Tech looked good, especially in the first quarter, and I think Warrick Dunn was right: Johnson called that series with only passes to for other coaches to watch on film: don’t cheat up against the run, and don’t assume Tech can’t go all the way down the field with a minute to go.

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:26 pm

Nope, I’m standing firm that I didn’t see much to get excited about tonight. Neither did any of the other ex-GT players I watched the game with. Its really hard to get excited about a Tevin Washington-led team.

Gallen

September 1st, 2011
11:27 pm

Let the ga losers bash. I will be laughing when Kellen smokes their sad D. Nice job Kentucky. Barely beating Western Kty.

GTPhenom

September 1st, 2011
11:27 pm

Agree completely with your assessment of Days George P. If he would have pitched the ball a couple of the times he kept it, we might have scored even more. And St. Richt, agree to disagree then, because everyone I’ve talked to excluding you has a pretty optimistic outlook on this season.

Hally

September 1st, 2011
11:28 pm

Nice job Tevin. Keep working. You did a solid job!

St. Richt

September 1st, 2011
11:28 pm

At least Coach Johnson was honest about tonight’s performance. You guys can keep drinkin the kool-aid and thump your chest over that win against what should be a Division III team.