The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets used three quarterbacks and a swarming defense to squeeze out a narrow 14-10 win over South Florida at Bobby Stadium. The win was the first for head coach Geoff Collins. More importantly, though it prevented the Yellow Jackets from starting the season with an 0-2 record.
Lucas Johnson started the game for the Yellow Jackets, but Tobias Oliver, the second-string quarterback, was inserted into the game in the second quarter and instantly ignited the offense. His game-winning-seven-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds to play in the second quarter was the last score by the Yellow Jackets. It was also enough points for a struggling USF offense to match. One could argue that the ultimate deciding play of the game came on the defense side of the ball.
USF had a prime position to take the lead with 10:03 left on the clock in the fourth quarter while on Tech’s one-yard line. Bulls running back Jordan Cronkrite attempted to go over the top of the defense for what looked like a touchdown, but cornerback Kaleb Oliver punched the ball out forced the fumble. T.K. Chimdeza recovered the ball for Tech, and the Bulls never came close to scoring more points.
“I’m really proud of those guys, the way they played, the way they fought,” Collins said. “I told them in the locker room that the reason we practice the way we practice, one of the big things that came up that ended up winning the for was, was sudden change football.
“Anybody that comes out to one of our practices, we practice sudden change an inordinate amount of time. The ball was at the 1-yard line, the defense never panicked, got a goal-line stand to win the game.”
From observing the game, there was not one player who stood out among the others; instead, it was indeed a collective win for Tech’s ball club. Collins eluded to the fact that every player had to give a conscious effort to win the game. Playing in extreme weather conditions (a high of 94 degrees), Tech consistently rotated players in the game.
“A character win, a team that plays together and just battles all the way to the end,” Collins said. “Doesn’t worry about the situation, just puts the ball down and plays together and plays at a high level. So I’m just really proud of that group that’s in that locker room right now.”
However, two players had career days for Tech: Jordan Mason and Johnson.
Mason rushed for a career-high 99 yards on 20 carries. He surpassed the 100-yard at one point during the game, but he said he was still content with his overall performance and stressed the importance of the team’s success.
“‘I’m never frustrated as long as we get the win and as long as my blockers block for me,” Mason said about not getting 100-yards rushing. “‘It’s never about me. ‘It’s just about the win, and ‘it’s about us doing us.”
Johnson was the starting quarterback, but he saw his reps split between Oliver and James Graham. Although Oliver had the most productive day, it was Johnson who played the most snaps in his college career.
“It was really fun. I waited a long time for it,” Johnson said. “I was just going along with the coach’s game plan and what he wants us to do. He puts us in the best situation to win the game, so when I got in there, I just tried to take control, be a leader, and just do what I can do.”
Johnson finished the game 11-17 passing for 45 yards and carried the ball nine times for 36 yards. He admitted that he is looking forward to getting better with every game.
“That’s the only way you’re really going to get better,” he said. “So, going back to look at the film, see what I could have done better, what reads I might have missed. It’s really helpful to go back and look at the film and try to build on your mistakes so you could have a cleaner game.”
The Yellow Jackets next game is Saturday at home against The Citadel Bulldogs at 12:30 p.m.