ATLANTA — Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense was so effective that even Georgia Tech’s first fumble with its new coach led to a touchdown.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt, making his first start, ran for two touchdowns — including one after recovering his fumble — and Georgia Tech beat Jacksonville State 41-14 on Thursday night to spoil Ryan Perrilloux’s debut with the Gamecocks.
Perrilloux was 22-for-37 passing for 136 yards, including two touchdown passes to Maurice Dupree, but he threw two first-half interceptions as Georgia Tech built a 27-0 lead. Morgan Burnett had each of the interceptions.
Jonathan Dwyer, also making his first start for Georgia Tech, had 10 carries for 113 yards, including touchdown runs of 21 and 29 yards in the first half.
Johnson, the former Navy coach, had his triple-option offense ready after much concern based on a rash of turnovers in the spring game and summer scrimmages. Georgia Tech ran for 349 yards and six touchdowns and had 484 total yards.
The 349 yards rushing are the most allowed by Jacksonville State since Nov. 16, 2002, when Johnson’s Georgia Southern team ran for 493 yards.
Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe predicted Georgia Tech’s Atlantic Coast Conference opponents will have difficulty defending the option-based offense.
"There’s just too many issues with this offense for people to deal with," Crowe said. "We had two and a half weeks to deal with it. The rest of these folks will get two days. Good luck, ACC."
Georgia Tech (1-0) bills the new attack the "perfect option." The slogan seemed a good fit when even the Yellow Jackets’ first fumble had a perfect ending. Nesbitt fumbled a snap near the goal line early in the second quarter but picked up the loose ball and scored from the 1.
Nesbitt also scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter, and Dwyer had touchdown runs of 21 and 29 yards.
Crowe said his players "had Dwyer in our sights about three times and just couldn’t tackle him."
"I think Jonathan Dwyer is a phenomenal player," Crowe said.
Perrilloux was in line to start for LSU this season before being dismissed by the Tigers for disciplinary reasons. Looking for a place to play immediately, he landed at the FCS school and immediately became the starter.
Perrilloux led the Gamecocks with 18 carries for 67 yards.
"We are a team that is very young and new to the big scene," Perrilloux said. "I think that played a part."
The second scoring pass from Perrilloux to Dupree, covering 16 yards, came with 37 seconds left.
Georgia Tech lost two of five fumbles and freshman Scott Blair missed field-goal attempts of 38 and 52 yards.
"Our kicking game was awful," Johnson said. "It couldn’t be much worse."
Johnson said his first win at Tech "wasn’t pretty" but added "41 points is a lot better than 14, I’m sure of that. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss."
Roddy Jones took a pitch from Nesbitt and ran 49 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, one of eight plays for Georgia Tech of 20 yards or longer.
"In this offense, you don’t know when someone is going to break a long run," Dwyer said, adding Johnson "is very aggressive in play-calling."
Jones also caught a 39-yard pass from Nesbitt, who was 5-for-12 passing for 87 yards. Nesbitt rushed for 60 yards.
Georgia Tech was 1-for-2 on fourth-down conversions and had only one punt.
Freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw played most of the second half for Georgia Tech and had a 33-yard run to set up his 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Perrilloux was making his second start in Atlanta. He was named MVP of the Southeastern Conference championship game for LSU last season.
The Gamecocks were picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference, but the Football Championship Subdivision team was overmatched.
Jacksonville State trailed 21-0 before it finally managed a first down on a 10-yard run by Dupree with 12:30 left in the first half.
Georgia Tech’s first turnover, a fumbled kickoff return by James Lipfert on the first play of the second half, set up Jacksonville State’s first touchdown.
The Gamecocks took possession at Georgia Tech’s 33. Perrilloux had runs of 12 and 15 yards before his 5-yard scoring pass to Dupree.