October 3, 2009

Jackets defeat Miss State 42-31 on the road

STARKVILLE -- On a beautiful night in Mississippi, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defeated Mississippi State 42-31. Head Coach Paul Johnson's triple option offense occupied the clock for most of the second half and Jackets' defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's scheme forced several turnovers in key moments. The Jackets defense was opportunistic and the Jackets offense was firing on all cylinders for the first time under Coach Johnson.

The Jackets moved the ball at will on the ground and through the air as quarterback, Josh Nesbitt and wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas set new career highs in the passing game. Nesbitt completed 11 of 14 passes for a career high 266 yards with one touchdown. Thomas caught eight passes for 174 yards and one touchdown.

"I thought Josh played a heck of a game," Johnson said. "I thought number eight did as well. They made a lot of big plays for us. Stephen Hill also had a couple of big plays for us including the reverse for a touchdown and a big catch in the second half. Offensively the skill guys played really well I thought."

The Jackets had 479 yards of total offense on 68 plays controlling the clock for 36:03 compared to Mississippi State's 23:57.
"I am not sure that every thing clicked, but we had enough guys make some plays and 42 is more than 31," Johnson said.

Nesbitt ran for 53 yards on 23 rushes and Jonathan Dwyer ran for 83 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown.

"We never did a good job going inside with Dwyer. I think they got after us pretty good inside," Johnson said.

The Bulldogs had 487 yards of total offense and ran for 231 yards on 38 attempts.

"We act like we have never seen the option and we have everybody looking in the backfield and everybody playing their keys," Johnson said. "We are not good enough to do that. We have to play gap responsibility and our assignments. We also missed a ton of tackles."

Offense

Following a Mississippi State fumble on their opening possession, The Jackets converted a fourth down and short on a pitch to Embry Peeples. Josh Nesbitt converted a third and short on the next set of downs to get the Jackets to the Bulldogs 24. Stephen Hill scored on a 24-yard touchdown run on reverse pitch from Nesbitt giving Georgia Tech a 7-0 lead. It was Hill's first career touchdown.

Tyler Melton made his first start of the season in his debut coming off a MCL injury.

On the Jackets second series, Nesbitt hooked up with Demaryius Thomas on first down on a screen pass for 28 yards. Nesbitt hit Peeples for a 19-yard gain two plays later for another first down giving the Jackets a first down at the Bulldog 28. Marcus Wright ran nine yards a first down on a second and long to put the Jackets at the Bulldog 11.

Georgia Tech had fourth and one on the Bulldogs six-yard line. Nesbitt picked up the first down on a quarterback keeper to convert their second straight fourth down. Jonathan Dwyer scored his 24th career touchdown to give the Jackets a 14-0 lead with 0:34 left in the first quarter. The Jackets have outscored opponents 62-14 this season.

The Jackets started their fourth offensive series at the Mississippi State 37 following another Bulldog turnover. Dwyer, Nesbitt and Peeples combined on various rushing plays to give the Jackets a first and goal from the Bulldogs' nine-yard line. Preston Lyons took it two the five-yard line on first down and Roddy Jones scored on second down on a five-yard rush to give Georgia Tech a 21-7 lead with 8:23 left in the second quarter.

Following a Mississippi State score, Coach Johnson opted to show the improved vertical passing attack with a 65-yard pass from Nesbitt to Thomas to the Bulldog 3. Dwyer fumbled on first and goal into the end zone resulting in a touchback for Mississippi State.

The Jackets went 158 game minutes without an offensive turnover dating back to the Clemson game.

The Jackets began their second offensive series on their own 10-yard line after a kickoff penalty. Nesbitt connected with Thomas on first down for 14 yards putting Thomas over 100 yards receiving for the third time this season.

"Josh did a good job tonight of putting the ball in the right spot," Thomas said. "I just made a play on it and ran after I caught the ball. We can get a lot better and we still had a lot of mistakes running and passing the ball. We had a good game tonight and did very well.

On the next play, Nesbitt connected with Anthony Allen on a 20-yard pass. Nesbitt connected with Thomas again on a third and long for 17 yards for a first down. Dwyer ran for another first down and Nesbitt ran for 13 yards on the play following that to get the ball to the Mississippi State 4. Following a Nesbitt fumble that he recovered, Nesbitt connected on a third and 23 pass to Thomas for a touchdown to give Georgia Tech a 34-17. Nesbitt passed his previous career high of 150 yards against LSU last year on the pass hitting the 196 yard mark for the game.

Following another Bulldog turnover, Georgia Tech took over on their own one-yard line. The Jackets kept the ball on the ground grinding the clock with a 35-17 lead late in the third quarter and mixing in a few screen plays for Thomas.

"I am just grateful for the win. I think it was my best passing performance without a doubt. I took care of the ball and placed it where I needed to place it," Nesbitt said.

In the fourth quarter, Nesbitt connect with Hill for a 53-yard pass to give Tech the ball on the Mississippi State 20. On third and three at the Bulldogs 15, Mississippi State committed a roughing the passer penalty and a pass interference penalty. The Jackets got the ball on the five-yard line for a first and goal. Anthony Allen ran it in for a five-yard touchdown to give the Jackets a 42-24 lead.

"Stephen is a great athlete and I have been working with Stephen. He did what he was supposed to do tonight and made some good plays," Thomas said. "It helps a lot to have someone step up. It helps the offense and keeps the defense from double-teaming me. It helps coach because he knows now that he has two playmakers and they can throw to either one of us."



Defense


Overall, the Jackets' defense recovered four fumbles and had one interception by Rashaad Reid at the end of the game. Junior middle linebacker Brad Jefferson forced two fumbles in the game, but he was not pleased with the team's overall performance on Saturday.

"We played alright, but we need to work on tuning in and blocking the crowd out," Jefferson said. "We need to block the crowd out. We need to watch film and work on getting better and stick with our responsibilities and assignments."

The Jackets began the game in the 4-3 look. Anthony Egbuniwe had a sack on quarterback Tyson Lee, forced a fumble and recovered the fumble on the Bulldogs opening drive.

For The Bulldogs second possession, the Jackets lined up in a nickel look with Jerrard Tarrant playing the wolf role.

Lee fumbled again on the Bulldogs second series at the Tech 25. Egbuniwe batted a pass on second down and Derrick Morgan forced a bad pass on third down forcing a Mississippi State 42-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right.

On the Bulldog second offensive series, defensive tackle Ben Anderson stripped quarterback Chris Relf on a run play and the fumble was recovered by Derrick Morgan at the Mississippi State 37. It was Morgan's sixth career fumble recovery.

Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon finally got going on the Bulldogs' third offensive series late in the second quarter. Dixon had been held to minus 2-yards in the first quarter. Wide receiver Chad Bumphis capped off a strong drive with a touchdown on a reverse play to cut Tech's lead to 21-14.

Jerrard Tarrant scooped up a Dixon fumbled and took it to the house 40 yards to give Georgia Tech a 28-14 lead. It was the longest fumble return by a Georgia Tech player since 1998. The Jackets' last fumble return for a touchdown came against Maryland on Oct. 6 2007 when Darrell Robertson recovered a Chris Turner fumble 32 yards for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs stuck with Dixon in the second quarter rushing 13 times for 104 yards. Bulldog holder Chris Cameron ran for a first down on fourth and short picking up nine yards on the fake field goal setting up Mississippi State at the Tech 14. The Jackets held the Bulldogs to a 32-yard field goal to end the half 28-17.

Tyson Lee dissected the Jackets secondary during their third quarter drive trailing 35-17. Mississippi State got as far as the one-yard line before Anthony Dixon fumbled the ball. Morgan Burnett scooped it up.

The Bulldogs scored on a broken play in the fourth quarter on a Lee pass to Bumphis for a 69-yard score to cut the lead to 35-24.


Special Teams

Scott Blair handled the kickoff duties and he made the tackle on the opening play of the game. On his third kickoff of the game at the end of the first quarter, Bulldog wide receiver Leon Barry returned a kick 89 yards for a touchdown. The last time the Jackets surrender a kick return for a touchdown was against North Carolina State on Nov. 4, 2006. The kick return cut the Jackets lead to 14-7.

Redshirt freshman Chris Tanner was solid kicking six PATs for the Jackets.

Chandler Anderson continued with his unusual punting style connecting on two punts for 80 yards including one inside the 20-yard line.

The Jackets are 0-5 on coin tosses.

True freshman walk-on Robbie Godhigh recorded a tackle in the fourth quarter on a kickoff.


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