ATLANTA — Yellow Jackets football made its return to The Flats Friday night as new head coach Geoff Collins hosted his first White vs. Gold spring game. It’s safe to say it wasn’t a bad turn out either because the 21,194 fans that witnessed the beginning of the #404Takeover was a new attendance record for a Georgia Tech spring game. It’s no surprise that Tech supporters would show up to the game because of all the preseason hype surrounding the program. No one is keeping score, but the Gold team avoided having to clean the stadium as a result of losing the match by beating the White team 30-20.
“It was good to see them [the players] rewarded with the unbelievable attendance, I think the lower bowl was almost completely full, I don’t know how many it holds, but that’s pretty exciting,” Collins said following the game. “Those young men that are in that locker room deserve it, and it was a great environment.”
Acquiring a new coach with new players and a new and invigorating offensive system is enough to grab the attention of Tech fans anticipating the new wave of football at their beloved university, and the program didn’t disappoint. Both teams were led by quarterbacks who have a talent for making dynamic plays through the air, and they were finally able to display their arm strength and accuracy in coach Collin’s pass-happy system.
The teams threw the ball 24 times each and eclipsed the 100-yard passing mark, something that rarely occurred under former head coach Paul Johnson. The run game was also active and saw a variety of backs carry the ball more traditionally.
In case you missed a gorgeous day of Georgia Tech football, here’s a quick breakdown of what transpired.
The quarterbacks are having fun
Two things make a quarterback happy: Being able to throw the ball until their arms hurt and not getting the back of their jerseys dirty. Since it was a spring game, the latter didn’t occur, but luckily for the quarterbacks, they were able to throw the ball in abundance tonight.
Lucas Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Gold team and got off to a quick start. Johnson is more suited as a pocket-passer as opposed to a run-first quarterback in a triple-option offensive scheme, and he proved it with his 141-passing rating. He finished the game 12-for-16 passing, 87 yards and a touchdown.
“It felt great. It was a long, long journey filled with a lot of ups and downs last year, it was really disappointing, but the team kept my spirits up, and it felt really good to be out there again,” Johnson said after having his season cut short last year due to injury.
Opposite of Johnson was James Graham who also had a stellar performance. Graham is Tech’s dual-threat quarterback because of his crafty speed and elusiveness. While he completed just under 50 percent of his passes, he showed his playmaking abilities and scored two of the White team’s touchdowns.
It was exciting, and I loved hearing the crowd yell that loud,” Graham said. I haven’t heard it that loud in a while, maybe since that Virginia game that went into overtime last year.”
The Ramblin’ running backs
Since Tech played a spring game, multiple players saw action, but Collins certainly has a plethora of running backs that can pose a threat for opposing defenses. The one guy that stood out the most was Jordan Mason. Mason is a bruiser that can make plays in the open space, and he took full advantage of his touches. He finished the game with seven carries for 32 yards and two touchdowns. Mason also led the Gold team in receptions with five catches and for 33 yards. Collectively, every running back that saw action contributed to the 124 rushing yards in the game.
Yes, the Jackets receivers were flying high during the spring game in large part to the new system that Collins implanted. There were a handful of plays that saw receivers leaping to grab the bombs that flew for much of the game. Adonicas Sanders had a marvelous leaping grab that resulted in a 39-yard touchdown with 6:46 left in the first quarter. He admitted to members of the media after the game that last year he was praying for “a miracle” to happen for the program to ditch the triple-option playbook. His prayers were answered, and he showed he was grateful by finishing with 54 receiving yards.
The Yellow Jackets have a new swagger and identity under Collins, and they appear ready to compete in the ACC this year.