ATLANTA — When quarterback Justin Thomas was hanging out with his buddies on Friday night, he was semi-joking about his desire to get 100 yards rushing.
Thomas had been challenged during the week by coach Paul Johnson to produce more rushing yards and the senior wasn’t about to back down.
“I was talking to the guys last night,” Thomas said. “I need 100 (yards). I haven’t had 100 in like 14 games.”
He looked at the stat sheet and shook his head.
“I was seven yards short,” he said. “I’m still upset about that.”
Thomas was joking about the seven yards. But there was nothing funny about his performance. He didn’t get his 100 yards — which he last accomplished in the 2014 Orange Bowl — but he looked more like the 2014 version of Thomas than fans have seen in a while in Georgia Tech’s 38-7 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Thomas rushed 11 times for 84 yards and completed 6 of 13 passes for 136 yards and one TD. Thomas connected with B-back Marcus Marshall for an 81-yard score on the first play of the game, He did an excellent job running the offense, often pulling the ball out of the B-back’s hands at the last second to find the open pitch man for a big run.
“I challenged him a little earlier,” Johnson said. “I told him we needed some more out of him rushing and he a couple of nice runs. I think he would have had a couple others if he had stayed outside he could have really (broken). When he sees the film he’s going to be disappointed.”
There wasn’t much to disappoint B-back Dedrick Mills. The freshman returned from his one-game suspension with a vengeance. He carried 14 times for 58 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The turning point of the game came early in the third quarter. Vanderbilt trailed 17-7 at the half, but took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Georgia Tech 28. The Commodores went for it on fourth-and-1 and failed when Brandon Adams anchored a surge that limited Khari Blasingame to no gain.
Georgia Tech then drove 72 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 4-yard run by Dedrick Mills. The touchdown gave the Yellow Jackets a 17-7 lead with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
“We wanted to score and needed to score coming out of the half,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said “We went for it on fourth down and didn’t get it. From a momentum standpoint there was still a lot of time left in the game, but that was a shift in momentum in this ballgame. We couldn’t get them off the field and they go down and score.”
The Georgia Tech defense wanted to limit the Vanderbilt running game. That was accomplished, as the Yellow Jackets held the Commodores to 97 yards rushing. But the time of possession was almost dead even, meaning the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get them off the field fast enough.
“We were pretty efficient offensively, and we wanted to gear up to stop the run and we held them under 100 yards, so that’s pretty good,” Johnson said. “Happy with the win, now we’ve got a quick turnaround, get ready for a really talented (Clemson) team coming in here on Thursday.”