Washington-to-Hill connection opens up option attack

Tech’s triple option offense is  known for wearing down a defense and eating time off the clock. The efficiency of the Jackets’ passing game has contributed heavily to a Tech offense averaging 53.3 points per game, making it the nation’s highest-scoring offense. The Tech offense has demonstrated the ability to strike for big plays quickly, already racking up seven one-play scoring drives this season. As part of this, the improvement in Tech’s passing game from past seasons has helped Tech achieve a 4-0 start for the 2011 season.

The effectiveness of passing plays by redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington and the athleticism of junior wide receiver Stephen Hill have helped to open up the ground game for the Jackets.

The 2011 season has shown improved offensive success for the Jackets. In the season opener, Washington completed eight of 13 attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns against Western Carolina. Hill had four receptions for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82-yard touchdown and a 77-yard touchdown. With the passing game keeping the defense honest, the Jackets amassed 297 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns against the Catamounts.

On the road against Middle Tennessee State, the redshirt junior completed five of eight passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Hill had three receptions for 126 yards, which included a 71-yard touchdown. This allowed for 382 yards rushing, with five different Jackets seeing the end zone to defeat the Blue Raiders.

In a 66-24 victory against the Kansas Jayhawks, Washington threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Though he had only a four-yard reception, Hill was a vital tone-setter and blocker for big run plays. His block to open up the game was key in allowing junior A-back Orwin Smith to run in a 95-yard touchdown to kick off the game. There were 604 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns in the game scored by six different Tech players.

Against North Carolina, Washington completed 10 of 14 passes for 184 yards, one touchdown and interception. The Jackets amassed 312 rushing yards and converted 10 of 16 third-downs.

In the 2010 season, Washington only completed 25 of his 61 attempts for 417 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in four starts. The redshirt junior has shown drastic improvement through the first four games of 2011 and has completed 27 passes of 42 attempts for 821 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days has also been efficient as a conductor of the offense. Days has completed four of five passing attempts in relief of Washington for 106 yards and  has also picked up four rushing touchdowns. Combined, Washington and Days have completed 37 of 47 attempts for 927 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. The success at quarterback has brought the Jackets to an unprecedented level of success on the stat sheet.

As for the other component of air game, Hill has heightened his intensity and knowledge of the game. Hill had 15 receptions for only 291 yards and three touchdowns in the 2010 season, and six receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown in Tech’s successful 2009 season.

Hill has shown considerable improvement from a statistical standpoint so far this year, with 14 receptions for 462 yards and four touchdowns. As Hill has become more acclimated to the game, his performance has better matched up to the high expectations that have been placed on him since he became the primary receiver.

Hill was a key figure in Tech’s 35-28 victory over UNC on Sept. 24. In the third quarter, he managed to drag three Tar Heel defenders for five extra yards after making a catch for a short gain. Earlier in the game, Hill pulled off a one-handed catch that he even admitted he did not expect to make. The play was featured as the top play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“Tevin put it in a spot that only I can go get it. I just used my basketball skills from high school. It kind of surprised me. I’m not going to lie to you. Once the ball got to my hands, [I] just used my strength in my forearm,” Hill said.

Improving from one reception for 12 yards in last year’s meeting against the Tar Heels, Hill was very potent throughout Tech’s first ACC match against the Tar Heels. Hill had a career- and season-high six receptions, totaling for 151 yards in the game. The junior had a 52-yard touchdown reception on a play-action pass that left him wide open; it was his fourth touchdown of the season. The Jacket wide receiver’s four scores in four games match to his touchdown total from his first two seasons at Tech, a stretch that spans 27 games.

Thanks in part to the increased effectiveness of the passing offense, Tech’s running game is No. 2 in the nation, averaging 398.8 yards a game. Hill has played a key part in the success and is on pace for a 1,000-yard season as a receiver.

With Hill and the receivers adding another dimension to an already productive unit, the Jackets’ offense will continue to pose a challenge for all opposing defenses on the schedule.


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