ATLANTA, Ga. (WKRN) – For months and months we have been told that the No. 25 ranked Tennessee Vols were working against Georgia Tech’s flexbone offense more than any team Coach Butch Jones had game-planned since taking over the Big Orange program.
They fooled us. Actually my spies said they were working on blocking field goals to send games to overtime.
Once the game started, the Vols looked like they never had seen such a hard-to-stop ground game as Georgia Tech brought to the table.
But when the Vols bull-rushed Georgia Tech kicker Shawn Davis on his 36-yard field goal attempt, it took the two teams to overtime.
Georgia Tech got the football first at the 25 and responded with a touchdown and Davis put Tech on top, 35-28.
Now it was Tennessee’s turn. They followed with a touchdown of their own. Kicker Aaron Medley kept the Vols’ hopes alive as they went to the second overtime.
It was the Vols’ turn. John Kelly was gold with a touchdown. Medley put the Vols ahead for the first time in the game at 42-35.
Could the ACC Jackets respond?
They did. Again it was quarterback LaQuan Marshall that ran across the goal line. Coach Paul Johnson opted to go for two points at this point. It would win or lose the game on one play from the three-yard line.
Tech turned to Marshall again, but this time the Vols slammed him down short of the goal line.
You had to see it to believe it.
It was 21-7 before the Vols woke up by getting a third quarter touchdown to draw within 21-14 after three quarters.
Could the Vols defense stop the Yellow Jackets on the ensuing drive? After all, they hadn’t stopped them all night. You know the answer. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall connected with Qua Searcy with a 42-yard pass and Marshall swept around right end to leaving the Vols trailing 28-14 with 13:08 on the game clock.
But the Vols came within a touchdown (28-21) with some lightning of their own in the fourth quarter. They couldn’t stop Tech, but the offense never took the lead until a John Kelly led drive drew the teams even at 28-28.
To think, Tennessee’s team practiced against Georgia Tech’s run-oriented flex offense since early this year. Of course, Coach Butch Jones prevented the media from attending practice sessions.
Georgia Tech wore down the Vols defense in the first half. The Rambling Wreck went to the locker room leading 14-7. It didn’t seem that close and the first half statistics agreed.
Georgia Tech won just about every statistic in the first half. They played keep away, while the Vols managed only 94 yards with five first downs in the first two quarters.
Tech led in first downs 12-to-5. They rushed 39 times for 167 yards. They kept the ball 21:17 compared to 8:43 for the Vols. Tech converted 8 of 11 third down plays. The Vols were two of seven.
The big mystery about which quarterback Coach Butch Jones was going to start was much about nothing. Even Larry, the Dr. Pepper joker, knew it would be Quentin Dormady.
Dormady was 8 for 20 for 52 yards in the first 30 minutes. Not exactly Peyton Manning numbers.
New Vols offensive coordinator Larry Scott fooled no one, especially after wide receiver Jauan Jennings out with injury most of the game. Meanwhile Georgia Tech kept the football 21:17 minutes in the first half.
Still, Tech kept its distance from the Vols.
But they would have to make a better showing in the second half. The Big Orange natives in Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium were not at all pleased.
Tech converted 8 of 11 third down situations in the first half. They were eating the game clock like they were being treated to an all you can eat night at Atlanta’s Varsity Drive-in.
Tech’s quarterback TaQuan Marshall ate up 115 yards in the first half. On the other hand the Vols were held to 42 yards on 8 runs. The longest run was 22.
The boo birds started early after Georgia Tech drew first blood.
Oh, how Butch Jones needed a first game win over a middle of the pack ACC team.
He got it with a team that never quit.
They won with guts and grit.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.