ATLANTA - It took Georgia Tech exactly 77 seconds to score its first touchdown against The Citadel, and yet it prompted the question: What took so long?
The Yellow Jackets were prohibitive favorites against the visitors from the Division I-AA Southern Conference, and they played their role well in a 35-7 victory before 41,804 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia Tech (2-0) scored the first three times it had the ball, chasing most first-string players to the sidelines and backups to the field long before halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the game was more like a practice session with many players getting their first taste of college game day action.
"The only person that could stop us was us," said running back Joe Burns after scoring on touchdown runs of 1 and 7 yards. "When we go out and execute like that, it's going to be hard."
Since the victory was never really in doubt for the 11th-ranked Yellow Jackets - especially since they drove 72 yards in the first five plays of the game for a touchdown - the primary goal was to keep the frontline players healthy and to give their backups some playing time. More than the final score, the fact Georgia Tech accomplished those two goals became their greatest accomplishment.
"It was a good situation to see where some of the younger players were," said Jackets coach George O'Leary. "Overall, what we wanted to accomplish with the first group, we accomplished. What I really wanted was to get the young kids a chance to play."
Bulldogs coach Ellis Johnson expected the worst.
"I knew we were going to be outclassed, talent-wise," he said. "We didn't look sure of ourselves on defense at times. We didn't play with a lot of confidence at first, but after that we settled down (against the Tech reserves) and tried to play hard."
The Citadel came at a good time for Georgia Tech because it allowed O'Leary to rest some key players who have some bumps and bruises while continuing to fine-tune their overall package for the Sept. 15 showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee.
Kelly Campbell, last week's most valuable player at the Kickoff Classic, didn't play with a sore ankle. Neither did cornerback Marvious Hester (hamstring) or wide receiver Will Glover (calf).
They weren't missed.
Tech drove 72 yards in five plays on the game's first possession and Burns started the scoring with a one-yard bolt up the middle. Luke Manget's extra point not only made it 7-0, it tied the Atlantic Coast Conference record for consecutive point after touchdown kicks at 93.
Less than five minutes later, Manget broke the record.
Jonathon Smith caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from George Godsey to make it 14-0 with 9:29 remaining in the first quarter and less than four minutes later a 13-yard Godsey-to-Kerry Watkins pass made it 21-0.
In last week's 13-7 victory over Syracuse, O'Leary was critical of Godsey's favoritism toward Campbell. With the senior receiver on the sideline, the quarterback had no choice but to spread the ball around.
"Once George got his confidence back, I knew he was going to start spreading the ball around," Smith said. "(The 40-yard touchdown) was a deep route, and I was one-on-one. The corner came into too tight and George threw a perfect ball."
The first unit played two more series in the second period and it provided the reserves a 28-0 cushion. Burns capped a six-play, 51-yard drive with a seven-yard run with 8:50 remaining before intermission.
Although Godsey played only five possessions, he hit 14 of 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think it was good that we were able to get so many guys into the game," Godsey said. "Our reserves work very hard in practice and deserve playing time. I think it was important for us to take control right from the start of the game."
Once Godsey helped the starting offense assume control, then it was Andy Hall's turn to run the offense. The sophomore enjoyed some moderate success by hitting eight of 18 passes, but he was sacked twice and he threw a pair of interceptions - Georgia Tech's only turnovers of the season.
"We started subbing in a lot of the younger guys and that's what you should do in a situation like this," O'Leary said. "That's why we kept Andy out there. We wanted to see what he can do. We wanted to see where he stood."
Not only did the Yellow Jackets play two quarterbacks, six different people ran the ball and six different players caught a pass.
Georgia Tech had 473 total yards, while The Citadel, which dropped to 0-10 in its lifetime series with the Yellow Jackets, managed 202 yards.
The Yellow Jackets play at Navy next Saturday.
WHAT WORKED: The defense, which held The Citadel to 202 total yards. Kelley Rhino set a school record for most punt returns in a game with nine for 74 yards.
WHAT DIDN'T: The only disappointment was that Tech played without its leading receiver, Kelly Campbell, who was held out after spraining his right ankle in the victory over Syracuse.
WHAT'S NEXT: Georgia Tech travels to Navy on Saturday for a noon game.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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