GT offense finds consistency
Inconsistent would be a great word to describe the Georgia Tech offense during the first four weeks of the 2018 season. An underwhelming performance offensively against Alcorn State, followed by a slightly better performance at South Florida resulted in a hangover against Pitt, where the team was only able to score 19 points against a below average defense. After fumbling the ball eight times in a 49-21 beating at the hands of the then third ranked Clemson Tigers, it was time for Coach Paul Johnson and the offense to go back to the drawing board. Since then, a seemingly brand-new offense has emerged.
In two games against Bowling Green and Louisville, the Yellow Jacket offense has scored 129 points, the most in two games since 135 in 2015. The bulk of the scoring, as you can imagine, has come from the ground, as the offense has amassed 914 rushing yards during the two-game span, with 542 of them being against the Cardinals. It is the third-highest total in school history.
While those numbers are crazy, that may not even be the best statistic to come from the past two games. Georgia Tech has scored points on 16 of their last 17 possessions, and 15 of them have been touchdowns (not including the game-ending drives in both games).
“That’s probably the best string I’ve seen in 40 years of coaching. I don’t know what it was last week, I think it was 8 out of 9 scoring, and tonight we scored every time we had it,” said Coach Paul Johnson following the win over Louisville.
As it is in any offense, a lot of success or lack of success is determined by the play of the quarterback. Up until the game against Bowling Green, fans were beginning to question TaQuon Marshall as the quarterback, and just as many wanted to see Tobias Oliver take over the job. In the last two games, TaQuon has shut the mouths of all the doubters, and maintained trust from his head coach.
“He’s played really well the last two weeks. It’s funny, because on the very first play of the game we had the media timeout and all that and we screwed it up and made the wrong formation call, and he got frustrated with himself. I told him ‘Dude, we made the first down. Just relax and play.’ When he gets in that groove, he is a really good player,” said coach Johnson when asked about TaQuon’s improvements.
The funniest part of it all is, the offense has been completely one-dimensional, but it has thrived due to the proper execution from number sixteen. Marshall has only thrown eight passes over the last two games and has completed six of them for 172 yards. Against Louisville, Marshall threw it only two times. The only other school to throw two passes or less and never punt in a game over the last 20 years is Army, who has done it three times (Tim Reynolds – AP).
So, how do you score 129 points in two games while only throwing 8 passes? You run the ball down your opponents’ throats. While it wasn’t a simple task for TaQuon and the Jackets during the first four games, Marshall has seemingly improved massively in his ability to make the right reads, springing the offense to new heights in the rushing game. Marshall, who jokingly credited some of his checks to playing Madden all the time, gave credit to Coach Johnson for settling him down before big games.
“I remember last week he came up to me before the game started, before I want out for my warm-ups, he just told me ‘You’ve been playing this game for a long time, just go out and have fun,’ so that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” said Marshall.
It’s safe to say that TaQuon and the offense have gotten their swagger back, and the energy amongst the team has shot up.
“I’m having a good time, man. Two good games, back to back. I think it’s the best I’ve played all season. It’s good to be back, it’s good to be having fun while we’re playing. I think everybody is having fun, everybody did a tremendous job playing super hard from the start to the finish. I thought Tobias got in their and lit it up, was super excited for him. The guys up front blocked very well and the guys on the perimeter did a great job blocking for each other. It was different. It was different today” said Marshall.
Not all of the credit can be given to the speed guys, however. In fact, an equal amount should be given to the offensive linemen, who have dominated the trenches in the last two games.
“I think we had a great game,” said Parker Braun. “This is by far the best we’ve played as a unit this year.”
Prior to the season beginning, there were high hopes for the offensive line. Throughout the first four games, they weren’t exactly living up to the expectations that the fans had and they had for themselves. Thankfully, they have turned it around and have played a massive role in the offense’s success.
Georgia Tech is 15-1 against rotating opponents from the ACC Atlantic Division, and the 66-31 win over Louisville was the first away-from-home win for the Jackets in seven games. The team will look to prevent Duke from beginning a win streak against the Jackets next week at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:20pm.