When Georgia Tech came roaring out of its Bobby Dodd Stadium tunnel on a Thursday night late in August, very few people knew what to expect.
Would the team that charged onto the field outmuscle its non-BCS opponent? Or would it come stumbling out the gates toward a disastrous wreck?
It wouldn’t take long to find out.
Barely nine minutes into the 2008 season-opener against Jacksonville State, the Yellow Jackets showcased the full strength of their once obscure offense as running back Jonathan Dwyer ripped off a 21-yard touchdown run.
Nearly three minutes later, any remaining worries Georgia Tech fans had about embarking on head coach Paul Johnson’s first year were soundly dismissed as the Yellow Jackets struck quickly again, this time on quarterback Josh Nesbitt’s 2-yard goal-line keeper.
With a 27-0 halftime lead, the Yellow Jackets quieted the Gamecocks and their starting quarterback, former LSU signal-caller Ryan Perrilloux.
Perrilloux was picked off twice by Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett en route to a 22-for-37 passing performance.
But while the Yellow Jackets completely dominated Jacksonville State on both sides of the ball, there was reason Johnson wasn’t on the sidelines brimming with joy.
During Georgia Tech’s spring and summer practices, his offense routinely botched snaps, bad handoffs and missed option pitch reads — the trend continued against the Gamecocks. The Yellow Jackets fumbled five times, and even though they plowed through the victorious 41-14 they still drew the ire of their head coach.
In his post-game news conference, Johnson told reporters the win “wasn’t pretty,” but added, “Forty-one points is a lot better than 14, I’m sure of that. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
As the year went on, the team heeded his words by improving on its turnover ratio, and continuing to find ways to win; pretty or not.