The first three touchdown drives required a total of 10 plays, which by Georgia Tech standards was positively ponderous. To score its next three touchdowns, the Jackets needed only six plays, and right about then you could hear the Jackets’ demanding coach grunting to himself: “That’s more like it.”
Six touchdowns. Sixteen plays, total. Think about that.
Think about the high-school offense that will never work in big-time college football — except when it stacks 66 points and 768 yards on a team from another BCS league, a team that not incidentally beat Tech a year ago. Think about what Paul Johnson has done with no Joshua Nesbitt, no Jonathan Dwyer, no Demaryius Thomas, no Anthony Allen. In three games, here’s what his spread option has wrought:
An average of 59.3 points and 675.3 yards. Think about that.
No, Tech hasn’t played the world’s most arduous schedule, but still … those numbers against air would be impressive. These have been compiled against opponents who come equipped with scholarship players and scouting reports, and it hasn’t mattered. When Tech takes the ball, it scores. Sometimes it scores so fast you’d swear you were watching a highlight tape and not a real game in real time.
Said Tevin Washington, the quarterback: “Sometimes we amaze ourselves.”
We’ve all seen Johnson and his offense at work. Even so, these three games have been astonishing. Three weeks running Tech has arrayed itself for the first snap, and three weeks running the first snap has yielded a touchdown: A 5-yard toss sweep against Western Carolina, a 59-yard pass against Middle Tennessee and now a 95-yard counter against Kansas. (Johnson: “We knew from last year that [the Jayhawks] would cheat to the motion.”)
In three games, Tech has scored 10 touchdowns on plays from beyond midfield. This is not the triple option as Darrell Royal and Barry Switzer knew the triple option. This is the triple option as reconstructed by a shrewd man who has taken a scheme and dragged it into the 21st century.
You can say what you will about Johnson, and much of it would be correct: He’s cocky, and he doesn’t care much about conventional wisdom or recruiting rankings, and he hasn’t yet won a bowl game at Tech, but … give the man his due. He’s a great play-designer, a great play-caller, a great play-tweaker. One PJ wrinkle, and somebody’s running for miles.
What transpired Saturday wasn’t quite perfection, but it was close. Tech had the ball 12 times. It allowed the clock to expire at game’s end. Of the 11 times it tried to score, it succeeded all but once. Of those 11 drives, the shortest netted 43 yards — and that was the one that ended with a punt.
Two backs broke 100 yards rushing. (Orwin Smith, who’d gone for 95 on the game’s first play, did it on his second carry, which represents the minimum number of attempts for breaking 100.) Two more went for 70-plus yards. Yet another had 68. Washington threw only seven passes, but averaged 41 yards per pass completion.
These were crazy numbers, and in the third quarter the whole thing got certifiably insane. Tech scored on its first snap of the second half, Embry Peeples swooping 63 yards. The Jackets needed four plays to go 74 yards the next time, Smith catching a play-action pass from Washington. Next possession: One play, one pass, one Roddy Jones touchdown. Up 24-17 at the half, Tech led 45-17 with barely half the quarter gone.
“As for us being a high-school offense … we just put up 700 yards,” Washington said. “If it works on this level, it works on any level.”
The 768 total yards? A school record. The 604 yards rushing? Ditto. But the goofiest number was this: Tech had the ball for 27 minutes and 37 seconds. It lost, if that’s the proper word, the time of possession and outgained its opponent by 406 yards.
Said Johnson, coming as close to gushing as he ever has or will: “We played fairly well the whole game on offense.”
Fairly well. Apt description.
I don’t know how good this Tech team is, and you don’t, either. (We’ll learn more when North Carolina arrives next weekend.) I don’t know if Johnson will win another ACC championship, and you don’t, either. But I do know this: The guy in charge can run an offense like nobody I’ve ever seen, and there’s not a five-star recruit in this mix. Just a five-star football coach.
By Mark Bradley