On September 13, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets hosted the Georgia Southern Eagles for their annual Family Day. It was a packed house that day, with little kids as far as the eye could see and a lot of Navy blue (both the colors of GT and GSU). It had been raining the latter part of the week and on Friday night, so we were fortunate that once Saturday morning came around it was a cloudy sky, but dry. 53,173 were in attendance for this first-ever meeting between the 2 football programs.
Georgia Tech scored on their opening drive with an 8-yd rush by QB Justin Thomas. Thomas ran for 70 yards in the 1st Quarter alone, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Thomas found RB Zach Laskey for a 12-yd TD strike to make the game 14-0 after 5 minutes. Southern responded with a 3-play, 72-yd Drive ending with a TD by RB Matt Breida. After Breida’s rushing TD the game was then 14-7.
Tech’s Tim Byerly was able to rush for a TD early in the 2nd Quarter to bring the hosts up by 14 points. Everything was firing on all cylinders for Georgia Tech. Before long, another touchdown came from WR Darren Waller and the Jackets were up 28-7. The Eagles were able to nail a FG before halftime but GT scored again, to end the 1st Half Tech 35, Georgia Southern 10.
Now here’s where things get interesting. Georgia Southern must’ve received the greatest halftime speech of all-time, possibly “Remember the Titans”-esque? because all during the 2nd Half it was a dominant Eagles team that scored 26 unanswered points. So an out-of-conference foe (who is also smaller in student attendance) was losing by as many as 21 points, found themselves with a 3-pt. lead.
By the 3rd Quarter RB Matt Breida already broke 100 yards rushing, QB Kevin Ellison had thrown 5/8 for 128 yards and a touchdown, and they (Georgia Southern) had 3 receivers with 40 yards receiving or more (Zach Walker, BJ Johnson, and Kentrellis Showers).
It was a battle all the way through the 2nd Half. Once Georgia Southern was up 38-35 the score stayed that way up until 30 seconds left. What started the momentum shift was when Southern’s Ellison threw a forward pass that was reviewed and then ruled a fumble (backwards pass). That was when Coach Johnson got his Yellow Jackets composed and marched 60 yards downfield to score with 30 seconds left. Deon Hill had 1 reception all-game, and it came in the final seconds from Justin Thomas to snag the late victory.
2 teams with 2 scrambling Quarterbacks usually amounts for a lot of yardage gained. This game was no different, as the two combined for over 1,000 yds. of Offense. Each Quarterback ran for 100 yds. and threw for 100 yds. For Georgia Tech, QB Justin Thomas had more rushing yards than Zach Laskey, Charles Perkins, and Deon Hill. WR DeAndre Smelter had 4 receptions for 106 yds. and 1 TD.
Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida finished with 111 yds. on 11 attempts and 2 TD’s while QB Kevin Ellison gained 114 yds. on the ground and earned 2 TD’s (1 rushing/1 receiving).
So the Jackets flirted with disaster but were able to pull of the 42-38 victory over Georgia Southern. Their next home game will be against the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 4.
Photography: Jonathan Davis