ATLANTA — Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas was told to run out of bounds or take a knee if he broke into the clear, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Thomas shared his side of a matter that coach Paul Johnson brought up after Saturday’s 70-0 win against Elon — with the score 63-0, Johnson instructed Thomas not to score if he broke a run and put himself in position to.
“I was thinking about it in the huddle and stuff, if I broke (free),” said Thomas, who was playing his first college game after redshirting last season. “But it had been a while. I felt like I had to get one.”
It would have been an uncommon gesture of sportsmanship for Thomas to deliberately kill a potential scoring play. Thomas said Wednesday that Johnson’s instructions were serious, and that he thought about it even as he sprinted to the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
“It was kind of instinct,” he said. “You see the end zone, you want to get in there.”
On his radio show Monday, Johnson said that it was hard to be upset with Thomas. Johnson said Thomas did “like most 20-year-olds would do if you were in a college game and you hadn’t played in a while and you saw the crease.”
PJ PEEVED AT PENALTY: In the first game of the season Saturday, Johnson needed only 14 offensive plays to find fault with an official’s interpretation of a clarified rule about blocking below the waist.
Johnson said the team sent in video of the call to the ACC league office for a ruling on an illegal-block penalty on A-back Dennis Andrews in the first quarter against Elon. The new rule language states that downfield players can block defenders below the waist from the front, defined as between “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” of the player being blocked.
The official “said, ‘They’ve got to hit him 10 to 2,’ which (Andrews) did,” Johnson said. “We’ll see. I mean, it’s a close call.”
Johnson was furious after the penalty, pointing and giving officials an earful. On the play, Andrews came at Elon defensive back Akeem Langham, who was angling from deep in the secondary toward quarterback Vad Lee. Andrews appeared to throw his cut block in front of Langham, but the angle of the block and Langham’s pursuit caused him to fall on his side.
With Tech, there is sensitivity regarding blocks below the waist. While virtually every team cut blocks, they are a fundamental element of Tech’s offense. Cut blocks are within the rules if performed properly and not to be confused with chop blocks, which are illegal. A chop block is a double-team block in which one player blocks a defender high and another blocks low.
“They’ve got to call it the way the rule’s written,” Johnson said. “Sometimes they like to make their own interpretations. It’s pretty clear, the rule. If you’re coming straight on, it’s not an issue. If you’re going from the side, then it is.”
The 15-yard penalty erased an 8-yard run by Lee and left Tech facing a first-and-17. Two plays later, B-back Zach Laskey scored on a 33-yard run.
WRS WALLER, HENRY BACK: Receiver Darren Waller had a tough time watching the game from the sidelines as he and wide receiver Travin Henry served one-game suspensions for violating team rules. After this week’s open date, they’ll be available to play against Duke on Sept. 14.
“It was painful, definitely, not being able to be out there after all the hard work we put in since January,” Waller said. “But these are my teammates. I’m with them all the time, 24/7, so it was definitely exciting to see them play and do what they did.”
Waller declined to get into the specifics about the suspension, saying he was told by Johnson not to speak about it.
INJURY REPORT: Offensive tackle Morgan Bailey (undisclosed surgery) and linebacker Tremayne McNair (knee) may be back for the Duke game. Defensive tackle Shawn Green (shoulder) is more likely a possibility to return for the North Carolina game Sept. 21.
Bailey has just begun running in the past couple of days and will have to recover his conditioning level and also quickly acclimate himself again to contact. Offensive line coach Mike Sewak said he could be back on the practice field by the end of the week and hopes he’ll be able to play.
Johnson said he didn’t know when safety Isaiah Johnson will be ready. The coach has said he is leaving the decision to Johnson on when he is ready to come back from ACL surgery.
NOTES: Former Albany Herald Player of the Year, Tony Zenon of Deerfield, saw limited action in Saturday’s win, getting just two carries for a total of six yards … Coaches named the team’s players of the week — receiver Micheal Summers (offense), linebacker Quayshawn Nealy (defense) and A-back Charles Perkins and safety Chris Milton (special teams). Summers had three catches for 79 yards in his first game, making an adjustment on a ball for a 54-yard reception. Nealy had eight tackles with one pass breakup. Perkins played on multiple special-teams units and made a solo tackle on a kickoff return. Milton blocked a punt. … Johnson said coaches will audition players for the punt-return, kickoff coverage and possibly kickoff-return units after his displeasure with their performance against Elon. Returners Jamal Golden and Corey Dennis had three punt returns for 4 yards.