Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee stiff arms Elon linebacker Corey Mitchell during Saturday’s game, which the Yellow Jackets won, 70-0. Lee finished the game with two passing TDs and one rushing TD. (Reuters News Service)
ATLANTA — On a hot and sticky Saturday afternoon in front of 45,759 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech completely overwhelmed Elon 70-0 as the Yellow Jackets produced eight offensive touchdowns, two defensive scores and a blocked punt on special teams.
The 10 TDs tied a school record that dates back to 2001 against Navy.
The high-scoring offense has been a predictable product of Tech football under head coach Paul Johnson, who began his sixth year as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach on Saturday.
But if this year’s defense under coordinator Ted Roof can turn in similar results the rest of the way, it could be a key ingredient if the Yellow Jackets are going places in 2013.
Roof, a Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Famer who played linebacker on The Flats from 1982-85, returned to Atlanta this year to head up the Yellow Jackets’ defense.
Tech piled up 557 yards of total offense and punted just once in the game, but the Yellow Jackets’ defense was doing its part in holding the Phoenix scoreless with just 253 yards of offense and forcing four turnovers with a fifth called back by a penalty.
“Obviously, when you win by a score that large, you did some things well,” said Johnson. “It went about as well as you could ever hope.”
Tech did just about everything right in the first quarter as the Yellow Jackets racked up 28 points, forced two turnovers and blocked a punt.
It started when Elon’s Tracey Coppedge fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and Tech’s Jemea Thomas recovered at the Phoenix 30.
The Yellow Jackets cashed in as Deon Hill scored from 14 yards out with 12:58 to go in the opening quarter to make it 7-0.
Tech wasted no time in making it 14-0 as David Sims scored from a yard out to increase the lead to 14-0 with 10:06 left.
Sims’ TD came after Chris Milton blocked freshman David Petroni’s first punt to set Tech up at the Elon 35.
Much to Petroni’s credit, the former Buford punter came back to average 44 yards per punt on his final six attempts, including a 48-yarder and four inside the 20.
Elon finally got its offense moving and got down to the Tech 35.
But an interception by Jabari Hunt-Days at the Tech 25 snuffed out that drive and four minutes later, Tech made it 21-0 as Zach Laskey broke free on a 33-yard scoring run.
Tech added a 3-yard scoring run by Charles Perkins as the Yellow Jackets piled up 28 points in the first quarter — their most since a 30-point outburst at North Carolina last November.
Tech got the second quarter started with a 59-yard screen pass from Vad Lee to Sims to up the score to 35-0.
Lee, in his first career start for the Yellow Jackets, finished the game 7-for-11 for 189 yards and two TD passes, no interceptions and no sacks.
Lee also rushed for 49 yards on six carries and scored one TD.
Elon marched again from its own 25 to the Tech 10, but Phoenix quarterback Mike Quinn was intercepted for the second time in the first half and Tyler Marcordes took it 95 yards to the house and a 42-0 advantage.
It was the third time under Johnson that Tech has scored 42 points in a half with the Yellow Jackets doing it as well against Kansas and Western Carolina in 2011.
The Phoenix tried again to get on the scoreboard at the end of the first half, but John Gallagher missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired and Tech sporting the six-TD advantage.
Tech opened the second half in more traditional form as the Yellow Jackets went on a 13-play drive that covered 75 yards and chewed up over five minutes on the clock, capped off by Lee’s 2-yard scoring run.
Tech came up with its third interception of the game and the second returned for a TD as Milton added a 54-yard pick-six midway through the third quarter to bump the margin up to 56-0.
The combined 173 yards in interception returns broke a record that dated back to 1966 in a game vs. Tulane when Tech had 139 yards.
Robert Godhigh’s 24-yard reception late in the third quarter pushed the lead to 63-0 as Lee threw his second TD pass of the day.
Tech completed the scoring with a 44-yard Justin Thomas run midway through the fourth quarter that capped off a 99-yard drive in nine plays.
“We had some things that we wanted to try and work on,” said Johnson of continuing with many starters in the second half. “We wanted to establish the fullback (to start the second half) since we really hadn’t done that and we were planning on letting Lee play one more series to throw the ball and work on that.”
The Yellow Jackets’ 70 points were the most in the modern era since a 70-7 victory over Navy in 2001.
The 70-point margin of victory also set an Atlantic Coast Conferene record that dated back to 2008 when Florida State defeated Western Carolina 69-0 in Tallahassee.
“I told the team we can only take this as a learning experience,” said Elon head coach Jason Swepson. “We’ve got a chance to get better this week and go on from there.”
Notes: Both the Georgia Tech and Elon rosters were sprinkled with players from Gwinnett County. For the Yellow Jackets, redshirt junior running back Charles Perkins (Collins Hill), redshirt freshman offensive lineman Chase Roberts (Greater Atlanta Christian), sophomore wide receiver Anthony Autry (Norcross), redshirt freshman defensive lineman Francis Kallon (Central Gwinnett) and sophomore defensive lineman Shawn Green (Grayson). Perkins finished with six yards on two carries. For the Phoenix, freshman punter David Petroni (Buford) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Haris Cesko (Grayson). … After 18 years as the Georgia Tech radio play-by-play broadcaster, Wes Durham has moved on to a new career in television along with continuing his duties as the radio voice of the Atlanta Falcons. So the Yellow Jackets have welcomed in Brandon Gaudin to call the action in 2013. Gaudin spent the last three years as the Butler University Bulldogs’ play-by-play man for football and men’s basketball. … Wes Durham may have moved on from The Flats, but there was still a Durham calling the game on Saturday. Taylor Durham, younger brother of Wes, is the voice of the Phoenix. … Historic Grant Field is 100-years-old in 2013 and the Yellow Jackets sure began the celebration in style on Saturday. To mark the anniversary, Georgia Tech has created a special logo to commemorate 100 years of playing football on North Avenue. The highlight of the celebration will come on September 26 when Tech hosts Virginia Tech in a national ESPN Thursday night game. The Yellow Jackets will wear special throw-back uniforms and every player who ever earned All-America honors has been invited back to campus. … Tech will have a bye week next Saturday and then head to Durham, N.C., to take on Duke in an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division game at 3:30 on ESPNU. The Yellow Jackets next home game is September 21 against another Coastal Division foe in North Carolina on Family Weekend.
Arkansas State 62, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 11: David Oku, Sirgregory Thornton, Michael Gordon and Fredi Knighten each rushed for 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown as the Red Wolves rushed for 509 yards in a dominant season-opening victory over the visiting Golden Lions.
Oku had 16 carries for 124 yards and two scores for Arkansas State, which led 48-0 at halftime after scoring touchdowns on each of its first seven possessions. The Red Wolves outgained Arkansas-Pine Bluff 672-173 in total yards and extended their winning streak to nine games.
Gordon's 91-yard touchdown run highlighted a 34-point second quarter for Arkansas State and Thornton rushed for two scores in the third quarter to put the Red Wolves ahead 62-0. Oku, Thornton and Knighten had two touchdowns apiece for the Red Wolves, who visit Auburn and former coach Gus Malzahn next Saturday.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff, last season's Southwestern Athletic Conference champion, was held to 12 rushing yards and eight first downs in its first meeting against the Red Wolves. Dezmond Beverly led the Golden Lions' offense with six receptions for 113 yards and quarterback Benjamin Anderson finished 13-of-26 passing for 161 yards.
While Arkansas-Pine Bluff converted just one of 15 third-down conversions, Arkansas State went 9-of-12 on third-down conversions and snapped a three-game skid in season openers. The game marked the debut of Bryan Harsin, who became the first coach to win his inaugural game at Arkansas State since 1979.