Eager to share his joy with the student body, Georgia Tech B-back Patrick Skov jumped into the north stands after his 21-yard scoring run 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. Perhaps even before he’d returned to the field, but certainly by the time the game had ended, he had recalled the contents of Section 2 of Rule 9 in the NCAA rulebook, covering unsportsmanlike conduct.
Among acts not allowed by the NCAA is “going into the stands to interact with spectators.”
Skov was asked about the display after the game, a 69-6 rout of Alcorn State.
“Let’s not talk about that,” he said in a playful tone, his body language communicating a bit of embarrassment. “Let’s just ignore it. It never happened.”
Asked if he had been admonished afterwards, Skov responded, “Once again, hopefully nobody saw it except you. I didn’t get a penalty and I didn’t get yelled at. I’m sure it’s going to get paused on film on Monday.”
Skov’s show of exuberance can be understood, if not excused. In his debut game with the Yellow Jackets after transferring from Stanford as a graduate student, Skov played much like the punishing back that he has been expected to be. Skov ran 12 times for 72 yards and three touchdowns. He wielded his 235 pounds effectively, frequently winning collisions with Alcorn State’s linebackers. Perhaps most memorably, Skov crashed into linebacker Darien Anderson at the 2-yard line on a handoff on a second-and-goal from the 3, digging his feet into the Grant Field turf, and drove him into the end zone for a touchdown.
Skov’s 72 yards is almost three times what he gained (25 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries) in three seasons at Stanford.
“I was joking with him in the locker room,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I told him he doubled his career rushing yardage (Thursday). But you can see, he’s a tough guy to tackle. He plays hard, he likes to play.”
What Skov did against Alcorn State doesn’t necessarily prove much yet. Presumably, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and others are more equipped to stop Tech and Skov than Alcorn State. But it was intriguing.
“It’s a new opportunity and it’s time to take advantage of it,” Skov said. “I think we did well as a group, as an offense (Thursday) and in general as a team, but like I said, we can still improve and keep our foot on the pedal.”
Another interesting aspect of Skov's joining the team is his approach to this year. He has described it in terms that almost sound like a junior year abroad, wanting to experience a different part of the country and a different style of football. To that end, Thursday didn’t disappoint him.
He said the pre-game walk from the team buses to Bobby Dodd Stadium via Yellow Jacket Alley (otherwise known as Brittain Drive) caught his attention.
“I think it’s called the Jacket Walk – I’m still learning; I might have said that wrong, I’m not sure,” he said. “That was kind of my first Georgia Tech football atmosphere kind of exposure, and that was kind of good to get the juice flowing from the fans and get you excited for the game. I think that was kind of the thing that kind of hit me, like, here we are. Welcome to G.T.”
Skov’s backup, Marcus Marshall, was something else. Marshall lit up Grant Field with 184 yards on eight carries for a completely absurd 23 yards-per-carry average. Marshall bolted for touchdown runs of 49 and 64 yards and added runs of 37 and 20 yards (the latter ended with a lost fumble). It was, rather remarkably, not close to a school record for a Tech freshman (chart below). But it does appear to set a school record for most rushing yards by a freshman in his first game, which will help Marshall accomplish a goal for his first year. If you're wondering, the NCAA record was set last year by Marlon Mack of South Florida, 275 yards against Western Carolina. The previous record was 212 yards, which Marshall probably could have reached had he remained in the game.
Marshall benefited from strong play from the line on both touchdown runs. He was virtually untouched on both. He also became the first first-year freshman running back to score a touchdown since Embry Peeples in 2008.
“They made my job easy,” he said. “I just outran people.”
Again, teams will defend Marshall better than Alcorn State. Regardless, that speed is something else. Interesting to note, Marshall was a relatively late addition to the signing class, gaining Tech’s notice after a strong senior season. A 49-yard touchdown run on the first career touch – that’s a little bit like hitting a grand slam in your first at-bat.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said,” but it definitely went well.”
Most rushing yards in one game by a Georgia Tech freshman (modern era)
Skov on his pairing with Marshall:
"I’m excited for the season for the both of us. Like I said, (heck) of a first game in your first career collegiate football game, putting up stats like that. I hope he keeps it up. We’ll be alright if our two B-backs score five touchdowns a game, I think.”
Allen injury update
A final word on the B-backs: Johnson didn’t think that Marcus Allen, who left the game with a right ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return, had been hurt severely.
“I think he’s going to be O.K.,” Johnson said. “They just kind of held out as a precaution.”
Big plays from Milton
It was a strong start for cornerback Chris Milton, who intercepted Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs Jr. on the Braves' first drive of the game by breaking hard out of zone coverage to make the diving theft. He made an impact later with a pass breakup on a 3rd-and-15 late in the first quarter.
Gibbs, who I presume was at least partly responsible for the attendance of several NFL scouts at the game, didn’t look like a quarterback who was named his league’s offensive player of the year after completing 58.3 percent of his passes. Milton’s presence, I’d think, probably played a part.
“I think we did well,” Milton said. “Of course, there’s always things we’ve got to work on, just little assignments, little things. We’ve got to make sure we’re on the right page. As a whole, I think we did pretty well.”
It was tough to judge the play of Jabari Hunt at defensive tackle. He played in a rotation in the middle with Adam Gotsis, Francis Kallon and Patrick Gamble. He was double teamed frequently, which limited his impact, but showed good pursuit. He had one tackle, in which he disengaged with an offensive lineman to run down a pass to a running back to the sideline.
(Hunt has chosen to no longer go by Hunt-Days. As has been previously reported, his relationship with his adoptive parents - the birth parents of former Tech B-back Synjyn Days - has been strained. Sort of related: My colleague Angela Tuck has written a story for Sunday's paper and myajc about Hunt's return from academic ineligibility. It'll be worth a read.)
Defensive end KeShun Freeman made one of the plays of the game in the second quarter, running down Darryan Ragsdale from behind after he had caught a pass and was running downfield. Freeman rushed at Gibbs from the left side, and Gibbs threw a screen pass to to Ragsdale to his left, away from Freeman. As Ragsdale ran downfield, Freeman kept pursuing, catching up to him when Ragsdale cut back to the middle. Freeman chopped at the ball, which came loose and was recovered by safety A.J. Gray, the second of three takeaways for the Jackets. Starting at their own 41, the Jackets drove to their seventh touchdown of the first half.
"That's kind of his M.O.," Johnson said of Freeman. "He plays that way."
No redshirts for eight
Eight true freshmen played Thursday – linebackers Victor Alexander and Brant Mitchell, offensive tackle Will Bryan, safety A.J. Gray, B-back Marcus Marshall, A-back TaQuon Marshall, defensive end Anree Saint-Amour and wide receiver Brad Stewart.
Other freshmen who dressed but didn’t play: defensive linemen Brentavious Glanton and Kyle Cerge-Henderson, A-back Mikell Lands-Davis, cornerback Meiko Dotson and wide receivers Christian Philpott and Harland Howell. I’d suspect that coaches are hoping to redshirt them but keeping them dressed as emergency options, or taking a wait-and-see approach to monitor development to see if they can contribute and justify burning their redshirts.
Not dressed out: quarterback Christian Campbell, linebacker Tyler Cooksey, A-back Omahri Jarrett, cornerbacks Dante Wigley and Dorian Walker, defensive tackle Trent Sellers, as well as running backs Quaide Weimerskirch (expected to return soon from foot surgery) and KirVonte Benson (rehabilitating from ACL tear). Also not suited up was defensive lineman Tyler Merriweather. He played as a first-year freshman last season. It’s possible he could redshirt this season.
The jerseys are slightly different - the Alcorn State jersey, for instance, has a seam running from the sleeve to the name plate, and the honeycomb pattern extends down the side panel - but are largely the same. Russell is the uniform provider for Alcorn State, as it is for Tech. I'll have to check the Alcorn State fan message boards for their thoughts.
Next up: Tulane
Tulane, Tech’s opponent next Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium, lost 37-7 Thursday night to Duke in New Orleans. A slew of special-teams mistakes did in the Green Wave, including a Duke kickoff return for a touchdown, a failed punt attempt and a kickoff mistakenly downed at the 1-yard line. (You may remember Tech has some experience with this.)
Further, Tulane averaged 1.1 yards per rush, was 2-for-14 on third downs and allowed Duke to convert 10 of 19 third downs.