The first play of Georgia Tech’s first spring game under Paul Johnson yielded a fumble. I mention this because … well, I feel compelled to mention it every time I attend a Georgia Tech spring game, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the high side of a half-dozen now. So: tradition.
I also mention it as a public-service reminder: Spring games mean less than nothing. Johnson’s first team wound up going 9-4 and beating Georgia, which had begun the season No. 1.
Apologies if you knew all of the above already, but sometimes in this world of College Football 24-7-365/6, we lose a bit of, shall we say, perspective. Doesn’t matter how good somebody looks in April. Doesn’t matter who’s televising the thing – I recall a time when spring games weren’t televised by any conference’s network, there being no conference networks – or how many fans show up or how many condoms the halftime act requires. Spring games don’t count.
Because, you know, a spring game is a team playing itself. A spring game isn’t the equivalent of the NFL preseason, which in and of itself is meaningless. A spring game is a scrimmage, of which every program has periodically in both spring and fall practice. Difference is, the alums – and the media – get to come watch this one. Aren’t we lucky?
As Tech spring games go, Friday night’s was about as entertaining as it gets. The Gold team -- the one with the No. 2 offense -- scored on a 61-yard pass from Chase Martenson to Brady Swilling with 1:32 remaining to shade the White 21-16. But before you start yelling at Ted Roof, be advised that the White was working with the No. 2 defense. In spring games as in life, all things are relative.
Matthew Jordan, considered the likely replacement for the excellent Justin Thomas, didn’t play, having sustained a foot injury in spring drills. Not until the final minute of the third quarter did the White team – the one with the No. 1 offense – score a touchdown, which was a little weird given that the Gold team managed one on its second snap, which was a bit weird itself.
Lucas Johnson, not usually mentioned among viable contenders to be the starting quarterback, scored on a 70-yard keeper. We note that Johnson, a redshirt freshman from San Diego, is considered a better passer than runner. (So why’s he at Tech, huh?)
Jay Jones, the No. 2 quarterback on the No. 1 offense – got that? – had better running stats than TaQuon Marshall, who got the first-string nod in Jordan’s absence. But there’s a real chance that none of quarterbacks who played Friday will see the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (assuming it’s open) against Tennessee on Labor Day. If we’ve learned anything from Johnson’s time at Tech, it’s that he usually taps the quarterback you figure he’ll tap, which in this case is Jordan.
Still, it was a nice enough scrimmage. It ended with the Gold team preserving victory with an end-zone interception, so that was fun, kind of. The band played. (No halftime show at the Flats.) In a departure from previous springs, it didn't rain. A smallish crowd gathered, which is in no way meant as a criticism. Life’s short and this is Atlanta. There are other entertainment options on a Friday night.
And if you’re asking, “What will you recall most from this exercise?”, the answer is that Johnson, not often in a good post-spring-game mood in years past, seemed almost giddy -- well, as giddy as he gets -- after this one. Make of that what you will.