ATLANTA — Now that Georgia Tech has solidified a spot in the postseason with its win over Duke last Saturday, Joshua Nesbitt’s plans for a bowl appearance could very well take shape.
Injured three weeks ago trying to make a first-half tackle against Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets quarterback has missed the last two-and-a-half games with a broken right forearm that will be sideline him this week, as well, when his teammates take on rival Georgia. He could continue to miss as few as three more weeks.
“We’re hoping,” Nesbitt said about a bowl appearance. “We don’t know yet.”
The senior signal-caller spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since a press conference three weeks ago that followed the Virginia Tech game. Just hours before his latest interview, Nesbitt was in the doctor’s office being fitted for a new cast.
“I pretty much can’t do anything right now,” he said of physical activity. “I just got the stitches out, so I couldn’t sweat before or anything or it might get infected. So I just have to wait till next week before I can start working out.”
If he begins conditioning and training again next week, there could be a chance that he gets back on the field in the coming weeks.
Filling in during Nesbitt’s absence the past two games has been sophomore backup Tevin Washington, who has led the Yellow Jackets to consecutive 400-yard-plus showings of total offense. Georgia Tech had 409 yards of total offense against Miami two weeks ago and 410 against Duke.
Johnson seeks an improving Tevin
Asked during his Sunday teleconference about Washington’s latest outing, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson admitted that the young ballplayer still has some improving to do in his system.
But that doesn’t mean he played poorly against the Blue Devils, either.
“He didn’t play as well this week as he did the week before, but that didn’t surprise me,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have to play some.”
Entering the Duke game, Johnson said he thought Washington would be challenged more mentally against the Blue Devils than in any of his two previous appearances, simply because he finally had time to think and evaluate multiple performances.
Against Virginia Tech, he was thrust into action so quickly he didn’t have long to think about preparing for the Hokies. The next week, he was so excited about getting his first career start that he just had to execute with little pressure placed upon him. But after having positive — maybe not great, but serviceable — outings against the Hokies and Hurricanes, he was going to be looked upon to maintain consistency against Duke.
In many ways, by propelling the Yellow Jackets to a bowl-berthing win, he did that.
“He did enough for us to win the game,” Johnson said. “He made the plays.”
There were occasional miscues Johnson saw from Washington on reads and option pitches, but those are details time and game experience may refine.
“He can play better,” Johnson said. “He’ll tell you that.
Butler earns honors
Yellow Jackets cornerback Mario Butler was named Monday the ACC’s defensive back of the week.
With a pair of big third-quarter plays, Butler helped Georgia Tech turn the momentum Saturday against Duke and come from behind for a 30-20 win that solidified the Yellow Jackets’ bowl hopes for a 14th consecutive season.
As the clock ticked away with about eight minutes left in the quarter, Butler broke into Duke’s backfield and stopped the Blue Devils’ Donovan Varner for a six-yard loss to set up a passing scenario on the next play.
During that next play, Butler read quarterback Brandon Connette’s eyes and jumped a route along the Blue Devils sideline. Stepping in front of the pass, he intercepted it, taking the ball 85 yards and into the end zone for a clutch score. It gave the Yellow Jackets a lead they would not relinquish.
The senior from Jacksonville, Fla., playing his final game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, also finished with three tackles.
His interception was his first of the season, and came after he being flagged for three pass interference penalties in the previous two games.
Big opponent, but same approach
Although Georgia Tech’s rivalry game with the in-state Bulldogs loom this week, don’t expect Johnson to be delivering a week full of “win one for the Gipper” types of speeches.
In his eyes, this contest is no different than any other the Yellow Jackets have played all season.
“We try to approach it just like you do for any game,” Johnson said. “We talk about the challenge and what’s at stake in the game.”
During weeks like these, most coaches try to avoid offering their rival bulletin board material that might be used against their players in the upcoming game. So far this week Johnson — a coach noted for his occasional off-the-cuff, unique quotations and sayings — has been mostly hands off about pushing an agenda this week. Of course, that may be different behind closed doors, but publicly, he is the epitome of calm and ordinary.
He appears to be living his words to a tee.
“You have a system and you stay with it as much as you can,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do differently as far as getting ready to play.”
Jackets practice in stadium
Thanks to four months of almost daily practices in mostly dry weather this fall, Georgia Tech’s Rose Bowl practice fields have taken a beating.
In order to help the space breathe some, the Yellow Jackets practiced Monday inside Bobby Dodd Stadium where the grass “is a lot better,” according to Johnson.
“He’s the best guy I’ve seen on tape. It’s not even close.” –Johnson on Georgia receiver A.J. Green