Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington, center, celebrates with teammates Robert Godhigh, left, and Zach Laskey, right, after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of Saturday's game.
ATLANTA — To say Georgia Tech needed this kind of performance against Boston College might be the understatement of the year.
The Yellow Jackets put together a solid all-around performance — at least, in the first half — to build up a big early lead before claiming a 37-17 win Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“It was nice to get back on the right side of the scoreboard,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I thought we played really well in the first half, both offensively and defensively. We lost a little bit of focus in the second half, but it’s like I told the team, ‘Thirty-seven is more than seventeen.’ So, we’ll take the win and try to build on it.”
It was far from perfect. Tech (3-4, 2-3 ACC) nearly let Boston College (1-6, 0-4) back into the game after taking a 28-point lead in the second half by missing two field goals and having another one blocked.
But for a team trying to rebound from three straight disheartening losses that led, in part, to the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, the win was a major shot in the arm, as the Jackets outgained the Eagles 563-296 and had an overwhelming time of possession advantage of 43:45 to just 16:15 for BC.
“No doubt, we’ve got a lot more ball to play,” said linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, one of five Tech defenders with a combined four tackles and assists, and part of an effort that held the visiting Eagles to just 296 yards of total offense.
Nealy then added: “This starts a new beginning. … You can’t even look at the past anymore. We’re 1-0 right now. We’re not even thinking about the losses we have.”
And few among the 40,112 fans were thinking about a loss most of the day, especially after Tech built up a big lead in the first half.
The Jackets got on the board late in the first quarter with Tevin Washington running five times for 41 yards during a 13-play, 90-yard march that drained 5:36 off the clock.
And the senior quarterback finished the drive by finding the end zone from 12 yards out for his 14th rushing TD of the season — and 32nd of his career — to put Tech in front 7-0 with 3:32 left in the first quarter.
Washington then came up big on Tech’s next possession early in the second quarter.
Faced with a third-and-26 from the Boston College 37, following a loss of 4 yards and a 15-yard penalty, Washington threaded a pass into traffic that B.J. Bostic hauled in for a 27-yard completion.
Instead of having to decide between a long fourth-down conversion attempt, a long field goal attempt or a punt, Bostic’s catch gave Tech a first down at the BC 10.
“B.J. did a good job of getting open and giving me a place to throw the ball,” said Washington, who became just the second player in Tech history to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards and 2,500 passing yards by posting 146 yards of total offense Saturday. “He made a good catch, and it was a big play to keep the drive going early in the game.”
Two plays later, the 6-foot, 205-pound senior snuck in from a yard out to give the Jackets a 14-0 lead just 2:03 into the second quarter.
After Boston College pulled to within 14-3 on Nate Freese’s 25-yard field goal with 8:25 left in the first half, backup QB Vad Lee got into the act on Tech’s next drive.
The redshirt freshman ran four times for 45 yards, including the last 24 to cap a 10-play, 57 yards drive with a score that extended the Jackets’ led to 21-3 with 3:33 left in the half.
Lee, who finished with 151 yards of total offense, then took to the air after the defense forced a three-and-out and forced BC into a punt that gave the Jackets possession on the Eagles’ 45.
Lee went up top on the first snap and caught a sprinting freshman Anthony Autry in stride for a 45-yard scoring strike, giving the Jackets a 28-3 lead with 2:01 left in the half.
“It felt good,” he said of his first career touchdown reception. “But I was ready to continue playing the game.”
And the Jackets needed to keep playing, even after Justin Moore’s 32-yard field goal with 4:44 left in the third quarter gave them their biggest lead at 31-3, Boston College began to claw its way back into the game.
Consecutive drives of 76 and 62 yards ended with the Eagles finding the end zone — first on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Chase Rettig to Alex Amidon, and then on a 12-yard strike from Rettig to Chris Pantale — cut the Jackets’ lead to a far less comfortable 31-17 with 13:02 still left to play.
And it looked like BC might get a chance to pull even closer after forcing Tech into a punting situation at its own 34 on the next possession.
But a foolish roughing the punter penalty on BC’s Ameer Richardson extended the drive, and the Jackets used the break to restore order, holding the ball 10 more plays before David Sims rumbled into the end zone from 7 yards out to push the lead back to 20 points at 37-17 with 8:22 left.
Former Albany Herald Player of the Year Tony Zenon of Deerfield, a redshirt sophomore, got into the action Saturday when he caught one pass for 44 yards and had three carries for 17 yards.