The new-look Georgia Tech defense lived up to its hype for being fast-paced and aggressive in the season opener on Saturday.
Playing for the first time under new defensive coordinator Nate Woody and his 3-4 scheme, the Yellow Jackets caused two turnovers and shut out Alcorn State 41-0, their first shutout in 57 games.
“Like I told our defense after the game, I mean, if you don’t give up any points, you’re probably never going to lose, right?” coach Paul Johnson said. “So that was a positive, but at the same time with what we want out standard to be, we missed some opportunities.”
Alcorn State managed only 10 first downs — one of those via penalty. They rushed for 77 yards, a 2.8-yard average, and threw for 69 yards. They were 2-for-11 on third-down conversions. Tech’s last shutout came in 2013 against Syracuse.
The biggest turnover was a fumble caused by big Brandon Adams, who swatted the ball free. It bounced into the arms of Buford product David Curry, who wound up with a 15-yard scoop-and-score.
“I read it well and was going to tackle the running back when all of a sudden the ball was right there,” Curry said. “It was a routine scoop-and-score. We practice that all the time. Nothing special, the ball was there for me and I picked it up and ran.”
The other turnover was an interception by redshirt freshman Caleb Oliver, who returned it 25 yards.
“I was happy to get an interception in my first collegiate game,” Oliver said.
Johnson, who improved to 9-2 in season openers at Tech, was not happy with the team’s offense, even though it amassed 543 yards.
“For as many guys we had returning on offense, that was a pretty sloppy performance,” Johnson said.
The attack was led by redshirt freshman Jordan Mason, who got his first career start and carried 10 times for 79 yards and one touchdown. KirVonte Benson, the regular starter who had to sit out the first quarter for violating a team rule, rushed 10 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall rushed nine times for 77 yards and one touchdown. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 104 yards and one touchdown, a 24-yarder to Brad Stewart. Marshall threw one interception.
“TaQuon did hit a couple of throws, but all-in-all it wasn’t up to speed,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t up to my standards.”
Backup quarterback Caleb Oliver played the fourth quarter — with a running block — and directed a long drive that ended at the 1. Oliver rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries.
Georgia Tech rushed for 240 yards and three touchdowns in the first half but turned it over twice.
The Yellow Jackets scored on their first possession when Mason broke up the middle and went 28 yards for a touchdown.
The scored twice in the second period. Marshall completed an 81-yard drive on a 1-yard run, with Mason throwing the lead block. Benson, the regular starter who was serving a one-game suspension, added a 5-yard touchdown run.
Alcorn remains winless in its history against teams from the Power Five conferences. But they fared better than their last trip to Georgia Tech, which resulted in a 69-6 spanking in 2015.