ATLANTA (AP)—Coach Paul Johnson was hardly pleased to watch as Georgia Tech fumbled five times, dropped several passes and failed to come up with more interceptions.
“We have a little problem with killer instinct and our intensity levels and playing hard,” Johnson said. “That is something we have to work on.”
The Yellow Jackets’ powerful running game was working just fine in their easy season opener.
Jonathan Dwyer ran for two touchdowns, and No. 15 Georgia Tech had 335 yards rushing in a 37-17 victory against Jacksonville State on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets rested many of their starters in the second half with Clemson visiting Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday.
Dwyer, the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, scored on the first play from scrimmage, taking an option pitch for a 74-yard touchdown.
“That play is designed to get the ball to the edge, and they made good blocks, and (quarterback) Josh (Nesbitt) made a big read,” Dwyer said. “Just give me the ball and let me make a play. That is what the offense is about, making the big plays.”
Dwyer finished with 95 yards rushing on seven carries, including a 5-yard touchdown later in the first quarter. Johnson kept Dwyer on the sideline for the entire second half.
“In hindsight, scoring on the first play of the game might not have been as good as you would think,” Johnson said. “The good thing is that we won the game. We have to learn from this, but we will have to be 100 times better on Thursday night or we will get run out of our own stadium.”
Jacksonville State trailed 31-7 at halftime, scoring on Brooks Robinson’s 20-yard flea-flicker TD catch.
“We just had to respond,” Gamecocks quarterback Marques Ivory said. “We had to stay with it, no matter what the score was.”
After Dwyer’s first score, Jacksonville State fumbled away the ensuing kickoff when Anthony Barnes knocked the ball loose from Jamal Young, and Jemea Thomas recovered at the Gamecocks 23.
Scott Blair’s 20-yard field goal ended that drive. The Yellow Jackets went up 17-0 on Dwyer’s second TD run later in the first quarter.
Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas caught four passes for 101 yards. His 56-yard reception put the Yellow Jackets on the Jacksonville State 17 midway through the second quarter.
“It was a good pass,” Thomas said. “I thought I was going to score. I didn’t know the corner was behind me, but it was a good pass. The coach had told us to keep running deep and stretch the safety out.”
Nesbitt ended the four-play drive by running for a 10-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper that made it 24-7.
The schedule gets no easier next week for Jacksonville State, as the FCS school visits Florida State.
Calvin Middleton led the Gamecocks with 59 yards rushing on 11 carries. Ivory completed 23 of 38 passes for 193 yards, two TDs and one interception that Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett picked off for the 11th of his career.
“It wasn’t what we expected,” Ivory said. “As awful as we did, we did do some good things. I thought I did pretty well. I had one turnover. Other than that, I thought I managed it pretty well.”
Nesbitt was 6-of-11 for 141 yards. Anthony Allen’s 26-yard TD catch made it 37-10 early in the fourth quarter.
“We did a lot of things right, but all the wrong we did just (overshadowed) it,” Nesbitt said. “We don’t worry about the things we do right. We worry about the things we do wrong.”
Georgia Tech’s halftime lead was padded in the final minute when Jerrard Terrant returned a punt for a 58-yard score. It was the Yellow Jackets’ first TD on a punt return in six years.
The 31 points in the first half were the most the Gamecocks had given up since Mississippi State had 32 in 2002.
Georgia Tech finished with 497 total yards, but Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe blamed himself for calling a blitz on the first play from scrimmage.
“The only way you can beat that is to pitch the ball to the outside,” Crowe said. “My statement was, ‘I don’t think there’s much of a chance of that. I called that one. We wasted time trying to get penetration.”