TIME OUT with Alex Mitchell: 09/23/11

Hello fellow Techies, and welcome to the fourth installment of Time Out. The subject of this week’s column will cover what the Tech faithful witnessed on Saturday: the greatest offensive game in Tech’s storied history.

Let me provide a few quick notes on what happened on the Flats this past weekend if you were too hungover to make it to the game or you are too lazy to read Danielle’s recap on the back page of this paper.

Tech’s offense looked unstoppable en route to racking up 768 yards of total offense and 604 rushing yards, both of which are school records. The Jackets scored early, with a 95-yard touchdown run from Orwin Smith on Tech’s first play of the game, and they scored often, with four touchdowns in the first few minutes of the second half.

The offense was impressive to watch to say the least, and it was one of the program’s best moments since the famous Cumberland game 95 years ago.

However, Cumberland College had decided to cancel its season in 1916 and the game against the Jackets was the team’s only game of the year. It was also a member of something called the Smokey Mountain Conference, whatever that was.

Kansas is no Cumberland.

Kansas is in one of best conferences in all of football and has some of the same types of players that Tech does. This is the same Kansas team that beat Tech last season and won the Orange Bowl in 2008.

Still, Tech took Kansas to the woodshed on Saturday and made the Jayhawks look like Western Kansas State A&M. This was supposed to be a down year for Tech after losing Joshua Nesbitt and only returning 12 starters from a team that went 6-7 last season. So how did the Jackets pull off Saturday’s offensive outburst?

Paul Johnson finally has the pieces to make his “no-longer-high-school-now-major-collegiate” offense work.

Tevin Washington is the perfect quarterback for the triple-option. He is incredibly bright and always seems to read the play correctly and he has the skills to back it up. He cannot run as hard as Nesbitt, but he knows exactly when to pitch and he can actually throw the ball, something Nesbitt could never do properly. Washington has already passed for 200 more yards than he did a year ago in only half of the attempts.

But it is not all Washington that led Tech to break a handful of school records on Saturday. The Jackets have more home run threats this season than they have had since the Joe Hamilton days.

Starting with the guy who scored the first touchdown on Saturday, Smith is the first truly elusive back that Johnson has had at Tech. His speed allows him to get to the outside faster than the cars going down I-75 and he can break tackles too.

The triple-option offense comes down to one-on-one matchups so when Smith makes the first guy miss, there usually is nothing in between him and the end zone. Which is exactly what you saw on Saturday. The only thing that could have tackled him on Saturday was Bermuda.

“Today was [Smith’s] day,” Johnson said following Tech’s big win on Saturday, but it could have easily been someone else’s day. Tech has a multitude of running backs that can be inserted at any time, and they are after each play. For example, Embry Peeples had only 22 yards in the first two games of the season, but he gained 110 yards against Kansas. The running back rotation seems to keep the backs fresher while defenses are huffing and puffing with hands on their hips.

Tech also has a budding star playing receiver who can also block any cornerback in college football. I am of course referring to new-and-improved Stephen Hill. Hill was supposed to be the go-to-guy last season, but could never find his groove with Nesbitt. Hill only had 15 catches last season and had what seemed to be thousands of dropped passes.

Enter Washington, and Hill immediately bursts onto the scene as “Bay Bay 2.0”. In fact, Hill is only 16 yards shy of what Demaryius Thomas did in his first three games in 2009.

With Tech’s rushing game, there is about as much pressure on Hill and the rest of the receivers as there is on Kobe Bryant in a pickup game. All the receivers have to do this season is catch the ball because there will be openings when teams cheat on the run.

Only time will tell if this year’s Jackets can win big and make a run for the ACC Championship, but there no more questions about whether or not Tech has the offense to make some noise. Tech has played three pedestrian opponents so far this season, but the offensive numbers are impressive no matter who the Jackets are playing, even Cumberland.

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