The competition will ramp up for Georgia Tech this week when it hosts Vanderbilt in the second of four straight games at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The Commodores (1-1) are coming in off a 47-24 win over Middle Tennessee. Vanderbilt led 33-24 heading into the final quarter before putting a couple of touchdowns on the board.
It won’t be easy for the Georgia Tech defense. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Sharmur isn’t among the best in the SEC, but he has an excellent running back in Ralph Webb to help him.
Georgia Tech (2-0) has won its first two games for the fourth straight season.
“We’ve got a lot of room to improve,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of things to get better at, and it’s a process. Hopefully, we’ll keep working, and we’ll get better.”
Here are five things we learned about Georgia Tech after its 35-10 win over Mercer:
Found the A-back: Two outstanding games by Qua Searcy have illustrated why the Yellow Jackets missed him so much last year after he went down with injury. He owns one of the two starting slots and could become the go-to A-back.
On Saturday, Searcy, a former Lamar County star, rushed for 91 yards and averaged 13 yards per carry. His 31-yard run at the end of the first half, when Georgia Tech was backed up to the 9, fueled a touchdown drive that provided needed separation. Searcy also caught a pass for 12 yards.
“I’m really pleased with him,” Johnson said. “He’s become a real playmaker for us.”
Matthew Jordan is a competent backup: The sophomore looked much more confident than he did a year ago when given the chance to play. He’s tough in short-yardage situations, a role he inherited from former backup Tim Byerly, and Jordan engineered two long scoring drives.
But how hurt was starting quarterback Justin Thomas? Johnson brushed off the question Saturday by saying Thomas was just dinged up a little and could have played, but Johnson felt confident enough to bring in Jordan because the outcome was decided (Georgia Tech led only 21-7 at the time). Thomas should be OK to start against Vanderbilt.
The defense isn’t good or bad: The Georgia Tech defense only allowed 10 points, but it couldn’t get Mercer off the field. Mercer had nine possessions and went three-and-out only twice. Georgia Tech didn’t create a turnover against the Bears after causing three the first week.
“The time of possession was even, and they punted once,” Johnson said. “It shouldn’t be that way, not against us. … We’ve been bend but don’t break for two weeks. We need some three-and-outs.”
Harrison Butker is a kicking machine: For the second straight week, none of Harrison Butker’s kickoffs were returned. He had four non-returned kicks against Boston College and seven non-returned kicks against Mercer.
That’s 11 kickoffs that have either gone out of the end zone or have been too deep in the end zone to be returned. That’s 11 times the opposition didn’t have a chance to return a kickoff and had to start a drive on the 20.
“Harrison Butker is a real weapon,” Johnson said. “When you don’t have to cover kicks, it makes the kickoff cover team really good.”
Anyone got a punter?: Grant Aasen won the punting job in practice last week, but that ownership might be short-lived. He kicked a 42-yarder in his only attempt, but it was not a good kick. Johnson indicated the situation there remains unsettled, which means Aasen or the deposed Ryan Rodwell could be out there against Vanderbilt.