It’s a very simple question: Who will wear the old leather helmet? Who will own bragging rights to The Dodd Trophy? This year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff game has local favorite Georgia Tech hosting Tennessee at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This is the first matchup between teams in 30 years. 75,107 fans were in attendance, the fourth highest attendance in Kickoff Game history.
Georgia Tech got some offense going when quarterback TaQuon Marshall connected with wide receiver Ricky Jeune for 44 yards late in the first quarter. This setup a one-yard touchdown run by Marshall to give Tech the first lead of the game.
Everything was going great for the Yellow Jacket offense until Tennessee’s Daniel Bituli caused a fumble that was recovered by Cortez McDowell. The Volunteers took full advantage of the Yellow Jacket turnover and tied the game after a one-yard touchdown run from tailback John Kelly.
But the Yellow Jackets exacted their revenge with a 16 play, 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown. Running Back KirVonte Benson capped off that drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the lead back to Georgia Tech. With a 16 play drive taking up just over seven minutes, the Jackets were able to roll into halftime confident.
The second half was more of the first for Georgia Tech, as their dominance on offense was becoming stronger. Marshall eclipsed 100 yards rushing after scoring his second touchdown on the ground.
The Vols mounted a response towards the end of the third quarter when Quinten Dormady found Marquez Callaway for a touchdown in the back right corner of the end zone. All of a sudden the score was 21-14 Georgia Tech and we had ourselves a ball game in the fourth quarter.
After a 42 yard pass to Qua Searcy, Marshall made another spectacular run into the end zone, this time leaping over the corner pylon. But even after those last heroics, Tech fans couldn’t celebrate just yet.
In what should’ve been a six-yard pass to the flat, wide receiver Marquez Callaway turned on the afterburners and blazed passed three cornerbacks for the 50-yard touchdown. With one touchdown separating the two schools in the fourth quarter, mistake-free football was a must.
That’s when Georgia Tech was in the clear and about to put the nail in the coffin but running back J.J. Green missed that ‘mistake-free’ memo and was stripped after an 18-yard run into the Tennessee red zone. But Tennessee heard the call loud and clear and marched right into the end zone after six plays, one of which was a 40-yard reception from Marquez Callaway.
With just over a minute to go and the score tied at 28, Georgia Tech found themselves in a fight for their lives. Heroics from Marshall setup Georgia Tech for a 36-yard field goal attempt to win the game and The Bobby Dodd trophy. But Paul Bain of Tennessee blocked the field goal attempt which sent Vol fans into a frenzy and Tech fans sobbing.
In overtime, the first strike came from Tech with a one-yard touchdown run from Marshall (his fourth on the night). The response? A one-yard touchdown run by John Kelly.
In the second overtime, a two-yard run by John Kelly made the score 42-35. The response was a touchdown run by Marshall (which was his fifth for 258 yards, a school record). With the game 42-41 and Tech down by a point, they put their faith in their bread and butter (the option) and failed to break the plane of the end zone.
So a game that was in Georgia Tech’s hands was eventually won by Tennessee. So with 655 yards of total offense and 41 minutes of possession, the Yellow Jackets fell in double overtime to the Volunteers of Tennesee.
With Georgia Tech’s offense running 96 plays, fatigue will play a big factor in how they manage their game this Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium against Jacksonville State. There are some positives to take from this though. Ricky Jeune is definitely a reliable wide threat when they need him and TaQuon Marshall just showed the entire country what he was made of in his first start of the season.
Photo: Hakim Wright