ATLANTA — Georgia Tech’s defensive breakdowns and two-game losing streak have overshadowed quarterback Tevin Washington's scoring spree.
Washington ranks second in the nation with 11 rushing touchdowns for Georgia Tech, which plays at No. 15 Clemson on Saturday. He leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring.
There has been little discussion of Washington’s high-scoring pace because Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-2 ACC) is coming off an embarrassing 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State. Washington's four TD runs tied a school record, but individual accomplishments provided no consolation following the crushing loss.
“I think guys really have put it behind them this week,” Washington said.
“We want to come out and get back on the right track this week and make a good impression at Clemson on Saturday.”
Clemson (4-1, 1-1 ACC) also has a leaky defense. Each team is allowing more than 26 points per game.
“I think it’s going to be a game of whoever has the ball last,” he said. “They’ve got a high-scoring offense. They’re going to throw the ball a lot. We have to take care of the ball when we have it. We know we’re going to have to score when we have the ball.”
Georgia Tech has won five of the past six in the series. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Washington was the key to Georgia Tech’s 31-17 over then-No. 6 Clemson last year in Atlanta.
“It all starts with the quarterback,” Swinney said. “Washington is a player. He killed us last year. He absolutely destroyed us with big plays. ... He is a very dangerous player. That’s where it starts in trying to defend these guys.”
Washington ran for 176 yards, a record for a Georgia Tech quarterback, in last year’s win over the Tigers. After the game, thousands of Georgia Tech students rushed onto the field.
There have been no postgame celebrations for the home fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium the past two weeks. Georgia Tech was 2-1 following an impressive 56-20 rout of Virginia, but then came an overtime home loss to Miami and the shocking loss to Middle Tennessee State.
Suddenly, Georgia Tech’s season appears to be on the brink of collapse, and Washington knows criticism is on the rise.
“I’m sure people have a lot of things to say,” Washington said. “That’s why you play the game. The negative stuff motivates you to go out there and play the next week.
“This is a part of football. Anybody can beat anybody.”
Some criticism has focused on how often Washington keeps the balls on option plays. He had 20 carries for only 47 yards against Miami and netted only 4 yards on 19 carries against Middle Tennessee State.
Washington says defenses determine who gets the ball.
“It kind of just sorts itself out,” Washington said. “It wasn't by design. It’s just how things have worked out. I’ve been getting most of the scores.”
Washington was sacked four times for a loss of 29 yards last week.
"You've got to be able to move forward, take your bumps and bruises, learn from it, and move on," Washington said.
Coach Paul Johnson said Washington played "not great" in the loss, but noted the quarterback wasn't alone.
Johnson said he'll continue to find snaps for redshirt freshman quarterback Vad Lee, who played only one series last week.
"We're trying to work him more and more and give him more reps," said Johnson of Lee. "We're bringing him as fast as he can come. I think he's getting more and more."
Washington's hold on the starting job appears to be secure.
"I just felt like the way the game was going Tevin gave us the best chance to win the game," Johnson said of last week's loss. "That's why (Lee) didn't play more."
Johnson didn't share his plans for Lee's playing time against Clemson.
"Most games we'll try to have a plan to get him in," he said. "As it warrants and as it progresses, he'll play more and more."