Throwing the ball as much as you can is all the rage in college football. Just ask the pass-happy Washington State head coach Mike Leach, whose balance equation in football is 50-percent stupid and 100-percent genius. It’s rare for teams in today’s game to favor running the football over throwing it, but some schools continue to run away from the change and hang on to old traditions.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been coached by Paul Johnson since 2008. One of the most underrated coaches in modern college football, Johnson’s flexbone triple-option offense has shades of the old days with new wrinkles of the future. The run-heavy offense led Georgia Tech to a 49-28 win over ACC rival Virginia Tech on Thursday night, and the Yellow Jackets did something that’s only been done 10 times in the last two decades in the process.
Back before modern offenses spread the field, and 22 men basically pushed each other up and down the field until somebody finally scored, the flexbone, triple-option offense was common everywhere. Fake handoffs, rolling sweeps and a lot of rushing yards are its staple. Nobody even completed a forward pass until St. Louis quarterback Bradbury Robinson did in 1906, and the rest is history.
The run-first offense is as nostalgic as it gets, and no one does it better than Paul Johnson.
From his time coaching Georgia Southern to a 62-10 record with two FCS national championships, through his six year tenure at Navy turning a 2-10 team into a 10-2 team in the first three years, until today at Georgia Tech, his priorities are run first, run second, run third, then think about maybe throwing fourth.
During Georgia Tech’s game against the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Yellow Jackets ran 78 times for 465 yards and seven touchdowns in the win, but that’s not even the most impressive stat.
The Yellow Jackets did not need to complete a single pass in a dominant win, and they only attempted one pass the entire night, becoming the 10th FBS team since 2000 to win a game without a single completion.
Schools like Army and Navy rely on run-heavy offenses because recruiting at their schools isn’t as easy as programs like the Clemson Tigers or Miami Hurricanes are able to. These schools get strong, smart kids who understand the simplicity, yet deceptive nature, of triple option attacks to maximize their talent where they can.
At Georgia Tech, though? They recruit specifically to run the football.
Yellow Jackets quarterback Tobias Oliver was graded as a three-star prospect coming out of high school by 247Sports and was considered more of an “athlete” than a dual-threat quarterback. On Thursday night, he led Georgia Tech with 40 carries for 215 yards and three touchdowns, including his 0-for-1 passing stat line.
Oliver’s 215 yards were the second-most in school history trailing only TaQuon Marshall’s 249 against Tennessee in 2017. Not too shabby of a performance for Oliver’s first-career start.
Don’t think the running game is a dying breed in football. Tons of schools still respect the old ways, and nobody does it better than they do it down in Atlanta, Georgia.