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Fumbles mar Georgia Tech spring game

ATLANTA - Paul Johnson wasn't happy to see his quarterbacks and running backs combine for eight fumbles in Georgia Tech's spring game.

The Georgia Tech coach finally had enough when punter Scott Blair dropped a snap and then took his time before picking up the ball on a play when the defense wasn't allowed to apply pressure.

A disgusted Johnson, who watched the game from the field, stripped the ball from Blair's hands after the punter picked up his drop in the third quarter of the Gold's 31-28 win over the White at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Blair had a rough day, missing field-goal attempts from 39, 49 and 35 yards. Blair has missed field goals before, but he said he's never had the ball knocked from his hands by a coach - especially in front of an estimated crowd of 8,500.

'That was very surprising,' Blair said. 'I stuck it out to punt it and it was gone.

'I just kind of looked at him in awe, and he told me to run off the field.'

In so many words.

'I won't get into any of that,' Blair said when asked about Johnson's choice of words.

Johnson stood on the field behind the offense during the game, so he was only a few feet away when Blair, a sophomore, dropped the snap.

Johnson said the fumbles were a disappointment after the offense did a better job of protecting the ball in the first 14 spring practices.

The kicking game is a bigger concern.

'I'm real concerned after watching it today,' Johnson said.

'The punt, that was as disappointing as anything. We dropped it. I mean, act like you care. We've got no urgency to pick it up, no urgency to kick it. In my mind, when it hit the ground it was dead.'

Johnson said stripping the ball from Blair was his way of 'letting him know he needs to have a little urgency.'

Blair made 12 of 19 field goals and averaged 38.9 yards punting last season.

Chris Tanner made a 37-yard field goal for the Gold but missed from 34 yards.

The Gold team featured Georgia Tech's No. 1 defense. The White team included the No. 1 offense, though quarterback Josh Nesbitt was held out with a sore shoulder and top running back Jonathan Dwyer was limited to only four carries for 47 yards, including a 30-yard gain on his first carry.

Jaybo Shaw filled in for Nesbitt as the first-team quarterback and was 12-for-20 passing for 198 yards. Shaw led the White team with 25 carries for 65 yards and three touchdowns.

Freshman Tevin Washington started at quarterback for the Gold team and was 7-for-10 passing for 167 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass to Paul Reese. Washington had 15 carries for 43 yards, including touchdown runs of 13 and 5 yards.

'Tevin made a lot of plays,' Johnson said.

Each quarterback struggled with fumbles.

Shaw fumbled on the first snap of the game when hit by linebacker Sedric Griffin. The Gold took over on the White 20-yard line, setting up Washington's 13-yard touchdown run, but Washington then fumbled on the Gold's second possession.

Shaw lost another fumble later in the opening quarter.

'There were way too many mistakes on both sides of the ball,' Johnson said.

Despite the fumbles, Johnson said the offense is far ahead of last year, when it was just learning his option scheme.

'I think there's a lot of difference,' he said. 'The ball was on the ground some today but coming through spring practice the offense was light years ahead of where we were last year.'

Georgia Tech finished 9-4 in Johnson's first season, including a win at Georgia to close the regular season.

'Looking back at last spring it's amazing we won any games,' said running back Roddy Jones, who had three catches for 72 yards and five carries for 15 yards.

'We've put in a lot more stuff. We've been able to work on tweaking plays a little bit to counter what defenses do.'

Shaw said he was constantly under pressure from the first-team defense.

'I didn't run the offense as crisp as I wanted to,' Shaw said. 'Anytime you run against that defense you're going to have to be on your A game. ... I tried to put the two fumbles away in the back of my head.'

Two of the biggest plays involved sophomore A-back Embry Peeples. Washington completed a 63-yard pass to Peeples to the White 5-yard line to set up a touchdown. Peeples added a 60-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give the White a 31-14 lead.

Anthony Allen and Peeples each rushed for 69 yards for the Gold team.