ATLANTA — The season opener went about as well as it could’ve for Georgia Tech. Vad Lee threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another and the Yellow Jackets amassed 557 total yards in a 70-0 victory over Elon at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The two longtime programs were getting together for the first time and Tech (1-0) overwhelmed the visiting Phoenix (0-1), who were playing for the sixth time against a FBS school.
Tech pitched a shut out for the first time since blanking Duke in October, 2008, and the Yellow Jackets scored 70 points for the first time since beating Navy 70-7 in September 2001.
Nine different players scored touchdowns for Tech, including backup quarterback Justin Thomas, who made a nice run and scored from 44 yards midway through the fourth for the final margin.
“Well obviously when you win by a score that large you did some things well. It was a crazy game,” said Tech coach Paul Johnson. “The last touchdown I told (Thomas) if he broke in the clear to take a knee. He just kind of smiled and said ‘come on coach, I haven’t played in two years.’”
It wasn’t just the offense that enjoyed itself Saturday. Chris Milton led the defense and special teams as the redshirt-sophomore safety intercepted Mike Quinn and rumbled 54 yards for a touchdown to put Tech up 56-0 with 7:08 left in the third. Earlier, Milton had blocked a punt, which led to a David Sims first quarter touchdown.
Tech had an opportunistic opening quarter and it helped open up a big early lead.
Elon won the coin flip and elected to receive and the move backfired for the visitors. On the second play from scrimmage, Tracey Coppedge fumbled and Jemea Thomas recovered to give Tech excellent field position.
B.J. Bostic had a 14-yard run to set up a first-and-goal situation for the Yellow Jackets, and two players later, Deon Hill scored un-touched from 14 yards for an early 7-0 lead.
After a three-and-out, Elon punter David Petroni had his kick blocked by Milton and Tech was once again in business at the Elon 35. Lee and Michael Summers hooked up on an 18-yard completion and Sims carried three times from the 11, the last of which was a leaping, one-yard plunge that made it a 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
Sims added a 59-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter and finished with 108 all-purpose yards on just eight touches.
“David had some really good runs,” said Johnson. “David’s healthy and I think you’re going to see a different guy.”
The Phoenix, playing their last season in the Southern Conference before moving up to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2014, finally got some offense going midway through the opening quarter as quarterback Mike Quinn completed three consecutive passes to get to the Tech 35. But Quinn’s fourth attempt on the drive was intercepted by Jabari-Hunt Days and a quick, six-play drive was capped by Zach Laskey’s 33-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead.
Charles Perkins’ three-yard touchdown made it 28-0, giving the Yellow Jackets their highest-scoring quarter since a 30-point outburst in last November’s win over North Carolina.
“That was good for Charles, he’s worked hard,” Johnson said.
Elon’s most promising set of downs of the first half — a 12-play drive midway through the second quarter — ended in disaster. The Phoenix were at the Tech 10 looking to be set up to at least end the shut out, but Quinn was intercepted by Tyler Marcordes and the redshirt-sophomore ran un-touched for a 95-yard touchdown. It was the fifth-longest interception return in school history and the Jackets’ longest interception return since Jamal Lewis had a 97-yarder in a 2006 win over Samford.
A miserable first half ended fittingly for Elon as John Gallagher was wide right on a 47-yard field goal as time expired.
Tech averaged over 10 yards per play during the first 30 minutes including nearly nine yards per rushing play and led 42-0 at the break.