ATLANTA - Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, aware there are some fans who have doubts about his option offense, could have let his starters put up big numbers against backups in Saturday's T-Day spring game.
Instead, Johnson had the first-team offense wear white jerseys and line up against the starting defense, wearing blue. The defense had the advantage in the Blue team's 24-7 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt fumbled on the first snap for the White team, setting the pace for the often sloppy play in the first public showing of the new spread option offense installed by Johnson, the first-year coach.
Johnson said he designed the intrasquad scrimmage to help his team prepare for the 2008 season.
'I just don't think you gain a whole lot out of going out there and beating the fool out of the third team,' Johnson said. 'The fans might ooh and ah and talk about it when you leave, but what I'm trying to do is make sure my guys get better for the fall and the best way I know to do that is to play good on good. That's what we tried to do.'
Calvin Booker, competing with Nesbitt for the starting job, completed 5 of 8 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns for the Blue team. Booker, who also threw an interception, threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Smith in the second quarter and a 48-yard pass to Kevin Cone in the fourth quarter.
After Nesbitt's first fumble, Blue team quarterback Bryce Dykes lost a fumble on his second play.
Starting running back Jonathan Dwyer also lost a fumble for the White team later in the opening quarter.
Dwyer led all rushers with 12 carries for 59 yards. Jamaal Evans scored on a 43-yard run for the White team's only touchdown.
'We've got a long way to go but this is just 15 practices in a brand new system,' Booker said.
Booker said the best news is the Yellow Jackets still have more time to learn the offense before their Aug. 28 season-opening game against Jacksonville State.
'It really could have been a lot smoother scrimmage if we executed,' Booker said. 'We have to improve, because hopefully by Jacksonville State you'll see an offense not putting the ball on the ground, not turning the ball over, not making mistakes and giving great effort with no missed assignments.'
After the opening game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech will be on the road for tough Atlantic Coast Conference games against Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Booker said Georgia Tech's first-team offense will have an advantage in those games it didn't enjoy on Saturday.
'A lot of people are like 'The option? How are you going to run the option?' Booker said. 'Our defense did the best because they've seen it 15 days straight, but another team really can't prepare for it as effective as we can run it. For Jacksonville State and Boston College and Virginia Tech and those guys, it will be their first time seeing it.'
Nesbitt was only 4-for-12 passing for 62 yards. He had 23 carries for 19 yards as he tries to move into a starting role after playing behind 2007 starter Taylor Bennett, who is not returning for his senior season.
'Josh did some good things,' Johnson said. 'Josh hasn't played. We don't have anybody at that position who has played.
'Josh had a little package where they snapped him the ball and he went and ran with it every time. That's not learning how to play the game. ... I think he'll grow from today as much as anything. The more we can put him in these positions, the more he'll grow. The same thing with Jonathan Dwyer.'
Johnson watched the game from the field, instead of the sideline. He joined huddles and then watched from about 15 yards behind the quarterback.
Johnson said players and coaches can learn from the mistakes made Saturday.
'Thankfully we don't have to play next Saturday,' Johnson said. 'We've got some time to get better and I think we will.'
Notes: The estimated crowd of 8,500 is believed to be the biggest to see a spring game at Tech since 1987, when Bobby Ross was entering his first season as coach. ... Dykes scored on a 1-yard run for the Blue team. ... Mohamed Yahiaoui made a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter but missed a 39-yard attempt. Scott Blair, also competing for kicking duties, was short from 51 yards. ... Johnson said there were no injuries in the game.