ATLANTA — No Justin Thomas. No Dedrick Mills. No problem for Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
Despite losing their top two rushers from last season's TaxSlayer Bowl championship team, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets still have triple-option guru Paul Johnson, and that was a whole lot for Tennessee's defense to handle Monday night. With former A-back TaQuon Marshall at quarterback, the Jackets blistered the Volunteers for 535 rushing yards and 655 total yards in Tennessee's thrilling 42-41 double-overtime triumph in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game inside the new $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Marshall rushed a staggering 44 times for 249 yards and five touchdowns, setting program records for rushing yards by a quarterback and touchdowns in a single game. Given Georgia Tech's rich tradition that includes a 222-0 win over Cumberland 101 years ago, that's quite an accomplishment.
"We did some things offensively that we can build on from this game," Johnson said. "TaQuon played his tail off. I thought he played tremendously. He can actually throw the ball in addition to running it, too.
"I thought he played well."relatedarticlethumb
With a 44-yard completion to Ricky Jeune and a 42-yarder to Qua Searcy, Marshall compiled an astronomical passer rating of 167.6. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior from Hamilton, Ga., made his first career start after winning a competition to replace Thomas, who graduated in May.
Mills was dismissed last month for violating athletic department rules. The starting B-back last season, Mills rushed for 771 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
KirVonte Benson was the starting B-back Monday night and complemented Marshall by rushing 26 times for 124 yards and a score.
"I don't think I've ever been in a game where we've run 96 plays for 655 yards and got beat," Johnson said. "We had the ball for 41 minutes, and they had it for 18."
Marshall and Benson led the Yellow Jackets to 12- and 16-play touchdown drives in the first half, with those two possessions combining to consume 13 minutes and 51 seconds and providing Tech a 14-7 lead at the break. The Jackets were shortening the game, but they couldn't overcome a costly fumble by J.J. Green, who began his career at Georgia, with 4:50 remaining in regulation.
Green's fumble occurred with Tech leading 28-21 and driving deep into Tennessee territory, but Rashaan Gaulden made the strip and Michah Abernathy the recovery at the 7-yard line of the Vols to keep the game in doubt.
"The last fumble killed us," Johnson said.
Georgia Tech's final play of the night was a counter option in double overtime that went awry when Marshall got stuffed at the line of scrimmage and threw in desperation to Benson.
"That should have been a walk-in but we screwed it up," Johnson said. "We didn't deserve to win."
Yellow Jackets freshman kicker Shawn Davis missed two field-goal triess, including a 36-yarder that was partially blocked as time expired in regulation. When asked what could be done to remedy that situation, Johnson said, "Try a different kicker, I guess."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.relatedarticlethumb
HOW THEY SCORED
ATLANTA — Staff writer David Paschall examines the scoring drives from Tennessee's 42-41 double-overtime win over Georgia Tech on Monday night:
GT — TaQuon Marshall 1-yard run (Shawn Davis kick), 0:06
Drive: 12 plays, 86 yards, 6:51
Key play: The Yellow Jackets didn't have a first down through two possessions but moved the chains for the first time on KirVonte Benson's 15-yard run up the middle on third-and-2 to the Georgia Tech 37. Three plays later, they converted a third-and-12 on Marshall's 44-yard pass to Ricky Jeune to the Tennessee 21.
GEORGIA TECH 7, TENNESSEE 0
TN — John Kelly 1-yard run (Aaron Medley kick), 8:11
Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards, 2:30
Key play: After Tennessee linebacker Daniel Bituli caused a Marshall fumble that fellow linebacker Cortez McDowell recovered at the Tech 46, Quinten Dormady connected with Jauan Jennings for 5 yards on third-and-3 to the 34. On the next play, Kelly picked up the biggest gain of the first half for the Volunteers with a 22-yard run to the 12.
GEORGIA TECH 7, TENNESSEE 7
GT — Benson 1-yard run (Davis kick), 1:11
Drive: 16 plays, 75 yards, 7:00
Key play: Marshall had the drive's biggest gain with a first-and-10 scramble for 12 yards to the Tennessee 16-yard line, but the key play was another Marshall run on third-and-9 that gained 10 yards to the 5.
GEORGIA TECH 14, TENNESSEE 7
GT — Marshall 1-yard run (Davis kick), 9:19
Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards, 5:36
Key play: Marshall continued to befuddle the Vols, keeping and winding his way for a 28-yard run to the Vols' 6.
GEORGIA TECH 21, TENNESSEE 7
TN — Marquez Callaway 10-yard pass from Dormady (Medley kick), 0:42
Drive: 7 plays, 70 yards, 2:32
Key play: Dormady converted a third-and-3 with a 14-yard pass to tight end Ethan Wolf to the Tech 35, and Kelly followed on the ensuing play with a 30-yard burst through the left side that set up a first-and-goal from the 5.
GEORGIA TECH 21, TENNESSEE 14
GT — Marshall 6-yard run (Davis kick), 13:08
Drive: 7 plays, 75 yards, 2:34
Key play: A Nathan Cottrell 14-yard run to midfield got the Jackets going, but the big play was Marshall dropping back and finding Qua Searcy past Micah Abernathy for a 42-yard connection to the 7.
GEORGIA TECH 28, TENNESSEE 14
TN — Callaway 50-yard pass from Dormady (Medley kick), 11:49
Drive: 5 plays, 61 yards, 1:15
Key play: Dormady and Kelly converted a third-and-9 with a 10-yard pass connection to midfield to set up the touchdown to Callaway, who used a stiff-arm on Lance Austin before racing down the sideline to the end zone.
GEORGIA TECH 28, TENNESSEE 21
TN — Kelly 11-yard run (Medley kick), 1:29
Drive: 7 plays, 93 yards, 3:21
Key play: After Abernathy recovered a J.J. Green fumble at the Tennessee 7, the Vols went to work on the tying drive. The big gain was a 40-yard pass from Dormady to Callaway, who jumped and snagged the ball at Tech's 27-yard line to attain 100 receiving yards for the night.
GEORGIA TECH 28, TENNESSEE 28
GT — Marshall 1-yard run (Davis kick)
Drive: 5 plays, 25 yards
Key play: Cottrell took an option pitch and went 12 yards to the 13 on the first play of overtime.
GEORGIA TECH 35, TENNESSEE 28
TN — Kelly 1-yard run (Medley kick)
Drive: 3 plays, 25 yards
Key play: Dormady fielded a high snap and handed off to Kelly, who powered ahead for 18 yards to the Georgia Tech 1.
GEORGIA TECH 35, TENNESSEE 35
TN — Kelly 2-yard run (Medley kick)
Drive: 3 plays, 25 yards
Key play: Dormady and Callaway — who else? — connected on a 15-yard pass to Georgia Tech's 9-yard line.
TENNESSEE 42, GEORGIA TECH 41
GT — Marshall 13-yard run (pasa failed)
Drive: 4 plays, 25 yards
Key play: Marshall kept around right end for his fifth rushing score of the game.