Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, left, runs past Western Carolina defensive back Elijer Martinez for a touchdown during the Yellow Jackets' season opener Thursday in Atlanta.
ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wasn't exactly pleased despite watching his team open the season with a blowout win over Western Carolina.
"We put balls on the ground entirely too many times and we made a couple of the biggest bonehead plays on special teams that I have seen in a long, long time," he said. "We weren't as good on third down defensively as we needed to be."
Orwin Smith scored two of Georgia Tech's four first-quarter touchdowns, Stephen Hill caught two touchdown passes from Tevin Washington and the Yellow Jackets won 63-21 Thursday night, piling up 662 yards of total offense.
Georgia Tech's yardage total was the second-highest in school history behind a 706-yard performance against The Citadel in 1948, but the Yellow Jackets struggled throughout the night to hold on to the football, losing two of six fumbles and allowing a second-quarter field goal attempt to get blocked and recovered for a touchdown.
Albany native Tony Zenon, The Herald's 2010 Player of the Year, even saw some action. The redshirt freshmaan caught one pass for 19 yards and had one rush, but he lost three yards on the carry.
Georgia Tech, facing an FCS opponent that dropped to 10-46 since the start of 2006, showed flashes of a formidable passing game after ranking 119th in the nation last year.
"I just try to be cool, calm and collected in all situations," Washington said. "A couple of situations I got into last year late in the game, I think I got rattled and kind of got beside myself."
Washington completed eight of 13 passes for 271 yards and three TDs. No. 2 quarterback Synjyn Days was 3 of 3 passing for 94 yards. Hill caught four passes for 181 yards. The yardage totals were career highs for all three players.
"It started in January from coach Johnson," Hill said. "They prepared us this year. And I was glad for the team. We all came out there and played hard. We had some mental mistakes, but we can build on that. I'm satisfied with tonight, but I'm still hungry."
Georgia Tech had more yards passing in the first quarter (148) than it had in any game last season (130 in an Oct. 2 win over Wake Forest).
The Yellow Jackets, who led the nation in rushing last year, racked up 260 yards on the ground. Smith finished with 84 yards, which included a 77-yard score, on just four carries.
"From an offensive standpoint, what we want to do is not have too many fumbles," Smith said. "That's the main thing with the triple-option and so many hands touching the ball. I think we did a pretty good job. In the first half, we had a couple of mishaps. In the second half, with the second and third team, they had a couple, but overall I think we did pretty good with the fumbling issue."
Western Carolina scored three touchdowns in the second quarter but still trailed by 21 points at halftime. Brandon Pechloff, who was sacked three times, had 180 yards passing for Western Carolina.
"We still had to overcome adversity and play hard in the second half, and I don't think we did that, especially in the second half," Catamounts coach Dennis Wagner said. "We didn't do nearly as well in the second half as we did in the first. That's a concern of ours, how we rally in the second half. We pride ourselves on our conditioning and the tempo that we run, but we were not an efficient operation on offense."
With his team leading 28-0 near the end of the first quarter, Jackets B-back Charles Perkins lost a fumble that Western Carolina's Rainey Ala recovered at the Georgia Tech 31. The Catamounts went three-and-out, but Georgia Tech's Euclid Cummings fumbled away the ensuing punt return that Courtland Carson recovered at the Georgia Tech 4.
Pechloff's 2-yard run on the next play made it 28-7.
Washington made a poor pitch two plays later, but fell on his fumble for a 14-yard loss, and Georgia Tech punted.
After the Catamounts had a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Michael Vaughn's 4-yard run and cut the lead to 35-14 late in the second, Georgia Tech answered with Washington's 26-yard TD pass to Roddy Jones.
But following another three-and-out by Western Carolina, the Jackets allowed Ala to block a 45-yard field goal attempt that was recovered by Isaiah Moore and returned for a 69-yard score to make it 42-21 at halftime.
"It was just a crazy game," Johnson said. "The (blocked) field goal right before the half -- I will have to look at that on tape. I don't know if it was just a low kick. I think it was a combination of many things, but that shouldn't be such an adventure."