ATLANTA — Justin Thomas was the difference in the matchup of spread-option offenses, running for two touchdowns and passing for another, and Georgia Tech beat Georgia Southern 35-24 on Saturday to end a three-game losing streak.
Georgia Tech (4-3) enjoyed a dominant opening quarter and put the game away with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Dedrick Mills had a 20-yard scoring run, his second of the game, with less than four minutes remaining.
Georgia Southern (3-3) has lost three straight — all on the road. The Eagles rank sixth in the nation in rushing but managed only 167 yards — more than 100 below their average — on 50 carries.
Georgia Tech started strong with a barrage of big plays in the first quarter and gained 437 yards. Thomas had a season-high 172 yards passing and 78 rushing.
Thomas said the key will be to use the game for momentum in the second half of the season. Georgia Tech has an off week before resuming its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against Duke.
“It was an up-and-down first half of the season,” Thomas said. “We regrouped this week and we have to come back in the second half and start from there.”
A 58-yard scoring run by Thomas and a 65-yard scoring pass from Thomas to Clinton Lynch gave the Yellow Jackets a 14-0 lead. A 50-yard run by Marcus Marshall set up Mills’ 6-yard touchdown run that made it 21-7.
“We did not come out of the gate the way we needed to, being down 14-0 before we could really blink,” said Georgia Southern coach Tyson Summers.
Georgia Tech didn’t score again until Thomas ran in from the 4 after faking a pitch early in the fourth quarter.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN: The Eagles lead the Sun Belt in total defense but couldn’t stop Georgia Tech in only the second matchup between the state rivals. L.A. Ramsby’s 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter gave the Eagles their only touchdown until Kevin Ellison’s 3-yard scoring pass to B.J. Johnson III with 1:03 remaining. Younghoe Koo kicked a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter.
GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets had the strong showing on both sides of the ball they needed to regain momentum after last week’s last-second loss at Pittsburgh. Thomas showed strong leadership as he didn’t turn the ball over. Corey Griffin delivered a big fourth-down sack to end the Eagles’ first drive of the second half.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN: The Eagles return to their Sun Belt Conference schedule when they visit New Mexico State on Saturday and try to extend their two-game winning streak in the series.
GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets are off next week and will play another home game against Duke on Oct. 29. Duke beat Georgia Tech 34-20 in 2015 for their second straight win in the ACC Coastal Division rivalry.