ATLANTA -- For two straight weeks, the Georgia Tech football team has played from behind. Against both Wofford and Tulane, the Yellow Jackets have allowed the game to remain competitive for longer than needed because of a bad start.
A similar misstep could prove more difficult to overcome this week against Georgia Southern, the best team the Yellow Jackets have played this year. Georgia Southern beat Florida last year, nearly beat N.C. State in the season opener and whipped Savannah State 83-9 last week.
“That’s an issue,” B-back Zach Laskey said. “We came out Saturday and fumbled the ball on the first play. Each Saturday, we’re coming out against bigger and better competition. We have to eliminate the mistakes if we want to stay perfect.”
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said a team often makes its most improvement between the first and second games. That was true in some areas, but it wasn’t the case for quarterback Justin Thomas, who fumbled on the first play of the game to set up a Tulane touchdown. Thomas completed only 3-of-8 passes for 15 yards, with a sack and an interception.
“For me, I don’t want to take anything out of (the game),” Thomas said. “Just stay focused throughout the whole game and put (Saturday) behind me. Keep moving forward.”
Johnson said the defense tackled better, “but still had too many missed assignments.” The defense got good pressure on the quarterback and didn’t give up many big plays, especially in the second half. Johnson was particularly complimentary of linebacker Quayshawn Nealey, who had four tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
“We made some improvements but not like what we wanted,” Johnson said. “We need to get a bunch better this week, and I think we will. Fundamental stuff ...little things that maybe everybody doesn’t see.”
The A-backs got a chance to run the ball against Tulane, which sold out to stop the dive play. Laskey still got 86 yards on 12 carries, but Tony Zenon (62 yards, two touchdowns), Deon Hill (43 yards), Charles Perkins (33 yards), B.J. Bostic (13 yards) and Broderick Snoddy (13 yards) all did some damage on the outside.
“There’s always something to get better at,” Perkins said. “We were able to battle through adversity, and I think it will help us in the long run.”
Johnson said freshman Andrew Marshall, who had to play when center Freddie Burden was injured, did OK for his first game.
“He hung in there under tough conditions,” Johnson said.
But Johnson said the staff must do a better job of rotating linemen into the game. Errin Joe, who missed last season with an injury, played some against Tulane. Guard Nick Brigham, who has missed the first two game because of concussion, is expected back this week. Guard Shamire Devine is expected to get more snaps.
“Some of those guys need to play,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech will get strong safety Isaiah Johnson back this week; the senior missed last week because of a hamstring injury. Also eligible are wide receiver Darren Waller and running back Dennis Andrews, who were suspended the first two games for violating team rules.