When Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas has enough protection to throw the ball and enough blocking to run the ball, good things usually follow.
That was case Saturday, when the senior led the Yellow Jackets to a 35-24 win over feisty Georgia Southern.
Thomas ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to help the Yellow Jackets (4-3) end their three-game losing streak and go into the off week with a better feeling.
“I thought that while we didn’t play perfect, we made enough plays to win,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said.
Thomas now has 19 career rushing touchdowns, which moved him up to a tie for 14th on the school’s career list. He needs 45 passing yards to become the 38th player in NCAA history to pass for 4,000 yards and run for 2,000 yards.
In two games against Georgia Southern, Thomas has accounted for eight touchdowns.
Four who mattered
Thomas: The senior ran 16 times for 78 yards and completed 7-of-11 passes for a season-high 172 yards and one touchdown. He was not sacked.
Georgia Tech B-back Dedrick Mills: Mills rushed 13 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The freshman leads the team with 446 yards and nine touchdowns rushing.
Georgia Tech safety Corey Griffin: The junior had career highs with 10 tackles and three tackles for loss and recorded his first career sack.
Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison: The senior entered the game when Favian Upshaw was shaken up, then he returned after Upshaw took another hard lick. Ellison rushed for 18 yards and completed 10-of-17 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.
The outcome was still in doubt late in the third quarter. Georgia Tech led 21-10 but had not been able to score in the second half. Facing third-and-6 at its own 14, Thomas found a well-covered Brad Stewart down field for a 40-yard reception. Four plays later, the Yellow Jackets scored on a 4-yard Thomas run to provide the separation needed.
Georgia Tech’s two freshmen linemen played well: Tackle Jahaziel Lee and guard Parker Braun handled the left side of the line and acquitted themselves well. Center Freddie Burden gave them his seal of approval, too.
Marcus Marshall is a pretty substantial backup: The sophomore showed his giddy-up when he broke a 50-yard run to set up a touchdown. But Marshall had only four carries for 70 yards, which speaks to the confidence in Mills and the depth of talent the Yellow Jackets can load in the backfield.
One streak comes to an end: The Georgia Tech defense forced Georgia Southern to go three and out on its first possession. The Yellow Jackets had allowed the opposition to score on its initial possession for each of the previous five games.
Another streak continues: Georgia Southern place-kicker Younghoe Koo made a 44-yard field goal on Saturday and is 10-for-10 this season. Koo made a 39-yarder, but the Eagles were flagged and had to back up five yards. No sweat. Koo booted in through from 44.
Ransby’s emotional rant: After scoring on a 1-yard run after being knocked back on the previous attempt, Georgia Southern’s L.A. Ransby yanked off his helmet and was in the face of the Georgia Tech defense. Ransby received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was pulled on the field by head coach Tyson Summers.
Roof in the box: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof watched the game from the press box. He asked Johnson what he thought about the idea early this week, and Johnson endorsed the move.
They said it
Johnson on the quick start: “We got started well early. I really felt like the third-and-13 they converted (in the first quarter), if we could have got them off the field there with the momentum we had, we might have buried them right there. But to their credit, the kid scrambled, made the first down, and they hung around and kind of stayed in the game.”
Summers on takeaways from the game: “I think there was a lot of improvement … certainly being upset about the way we played 10 or 11 days ago against Arkansas State and really trying to keep our football team in the right frame of mind and practice the way we need to. I felt like we walked in here (Saturday) prepared to win the football game. It was a full-fledged belief they had.”
Georgia Tech has its bye week and hosts Duke on Oct. 29. Georgia Southern is at New Mexico State at 8 p.m. on Saturday.